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Defending conference champion CV edges Los Banos, loses to Central Catholic
Central Valley High School's varsity girls basketball team began defense of its Western Athletic Conference title this past week.

The two-time WAC-champion Hawks beat Los Banos and lost to Patterson.

Central Valley placed first with a 10-2 record last season.

Los Banos and Patterson, both 9-3 in 2011-12, tied for second.

"It feels the same as last year," Hawks 6-foot-2 senior center Brittany Martinez said. "We still have a target on our back. Everyone's after us. We want the same thing they do. It's not going to be easy. We just have to continue working hard."

Central Valley held on for a 48-40 win over Los Banos on Thursday in Ceres.

The Tigers cut a six-point deficit to one with less than two minutes to play.

The Hawks responded with a 7-0 run.

Tamara Uti made a close-range jumper and one of two free throws.

Martinez scored inside.

Catrina Castillo converted a pair of foul shots. "We did pretty good tonight," said Martinez, who totaled a game-high 21 points while competing in front of a medium-sized crowd and recruiters from UC Merced and Merced College. "We didn't expect them to go easy on us. We played hard and together."

Central Valley teammate Mia Lorenzo had 10 points.

Uti, Castillo, Ali Martinez and Jessica Martinez collected six, five, four and two points, respectively.

The Hawks led 21-18 at the break.

Central Valley outscored Los Banos 27-22 after intermission.

Host Patterson outscored Central Valley 13-3 in the first quarter and cruised to a 54-25 victory on Wednesday.

Brittany Martinez tallied a team-high 14 points. Lorenzo and Uti both contributed four points.

The Tigers built a 25-13 lead in the opening half.

Patterson outscored Central Valley 29-12 in the second half.

"I think we're very equal to them," Brittany Martinez said. "We just needed to execute better."

"We struggled," Hawks head coach Jesse Padilla added. "I'm still trying to find the right 5-8 players to roll with."

Power forward Jazareth Valencia's presence was missed. She suffered a season-ending ankle injury during non-conference play.