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Defending WAC champ Bulldogs face rebuilding year
Ceres High School's varsity boys basketball program accomplished all of its goals last season.

The Bulldogs won the Western Athletic Conference title, qualified for the Sac-Joaquin Section Division-III playoffs, swept crosstown-rival Central Valley and posted an 17-9 record.

"We're a completely different team now," Ceres High head coach Brian de la Porte said. "Our expectations are not going to change because of the losses. Tradition never graduates."

The Bulldogs lost 10 players to graduation, including starters John Dhillon, Edgar Lopez, Chris Hilgen and George Borden.

Dhillon and Lopez made up Ceres High's prolific backcourt.

John was named WAC MVP his senior year. He averaged 15.5 points, 4.7 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 2.8 steals per game.

Edgar earned first-team, all-league accolades. He averaged 19.0 points, 2.8 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.3 steals per game.

"You lose seniors like that and hope your juniors from the previous year step up," de la Porte said. "That's what good basketball and football programs do."

The Bulldogs return just three players from a season ago: Binder Atwal (Sr., guard), Jose Nava (Sr., forward) and Jimbo Pernetti (Jr., guard).

"They're the bridge from last year's team to this year's team," de la Porte said.

Atwal ranked third on the team in scoring as a junior. He averaged 10.7 points, 4.1 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.7 steals. Binder received second-team, all-conference honors.

"There's a little bit of pressure on him (Atwal)," de la Porte said. "But that's a good thing. It's a role and challenge he has to accept. We're going to ride him early and hopefully the other kids develop and we become more balanced."

Juniors Abel Anaya, Caden Johnson, Eric Madrigal, Miguel Mondragon and Haydon Turpin, and sophomores Harman Chung, Angel Garcia, Jr. Garcia and Abel Reyes are new to the team.

Anaya, Johnson, Madrigal, Mondragon and Turpin helped lead Ceres High's junior-varsity boys to a 7-5 record in WAC play last year.

Harman, Angel and Jr. competed together at the frosh level a year ago. The Bulldogs won eight of their 12 league games.

"We have a fairly, young team," de la Porte said. "It hit me in the summertime with all the new faces. We're starting over. It's a great foundation to build upon. We're going to try to get better every day."

Ceres High placed first with an 8-2 record in the 2010-11 WAC standings. The Bulldogs finished ahead of Livingston (7-3), Los Banos (6-4), Central Catholic (4-6), Central Valley (3-7) and Patterson (3-7).

Central Catholic returns three starters, including 6-foot-8 post player John Fenton, Kyler Wilson and Nate Loya.

"Everyone is going to be gunning for us because we're the defending, league champions," said de la Porte, who was voted 2010-11 WAC Coach of the Year. "We're not going to lay down for anybody. We're going to give it all we got."

Ceres High has an all-time record of 8-3 against crosstown-rival Central Valley. The Bulldogs have won the last four meetings (68-39, 75-51, 52-50, 52-39). Ceres High lost two of three games to the Hawks in 2008-09. "We want to own the city and beat those guys every year," de la Porte said. "But that's our third goal. Our main goal is to win the WAC championship. Our second goal is to make the playoffs."