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Four seniors led Ceres to Division II crown
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Four years ago, coach Shawna Nunes promoted a handful of freshmen to the Ceres High varsity girls basketball team. She knew Heather Mazza, Krystle Brown, Meghan Franksen and Kelsey Sayad had potential.

On March 8, Mazza, Brown, Franksen and Sayad capped off their careers with a 52-42 loss to Aragon in the opening round of the NorCal Regional Basketball Tournament at Ceres High School. The four seniors helped lead the Bulldogs to the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II title on March 5.

"I'm going to miss those seniors," Nunes said. "I'm so proud to have had them in my program. They have sacrificed so much over the last four years."

Added first-year varsity player Kristen McClure: "They've taught me a lot. It's really sad to see them go."

Ceres coaches and players shed tears together after their final game.

"I'm sad," Mazza said. "I'm going to miss it.

"Everyone I have played with is so cool. We're going to keep in touch for sure."

With Mazza, Brown, Franksen and Sayad leading the way, Ceres won 82 of 118 games in the span of four years, including 68 of 90 the past three seasons. The Bulldogs made the playoffs every year. They also surpassed the 20-win mark three years in a row. This year's team went 25-7.

"So many memories," Mazza said.

Mazza, Brown, Franksen and Sayad accomplished a lifelong athletic dream in 2004-05. They guided Ceres to its first-ever section title. The Bulldogs overcame a 14-point deficit and defeated Vacaville 57-46 at Arco Arena.

As juniors, Mazza, Brown, Franksen, Sayad and the Bulldogs advanced to the quarterfinal round of the playoffs. Ceres finished the year with a 21-8 record.

The 2002-03 squad made it to the semifinal round of the playoffs at the University of the Pacific. The Bulldogs almost lost in the opening round. Keyasha Brothern buried a 16-foot jumper with two seconds remaining to lift the Bulldogs to a 64-53 win over Rocklin at Ceres High. The Bulldogs won 22 of 29 games on the season.

"They've grown so much as persons and players," Nunes said.

Mazza, Brown, Franksen and Sayad had a tough time getting acclimated during their freshman year. That was bound to happen. They competed at the eighth-grade level the year before.

"The first day of practice during our freshman year, each one of us went home and cried," Mazza said. "That was the hardest day of our lives."

Ceres posted a 14-14 record. The Bulldogs committed 35 turnovers in losing 73-25 to Laguna Creek in the first round of the playoffs.

"That motivated us," Mazza said.

This fall, Mazza will enroll at Bethany College in Scotts Valley. She received a partial scholarship to play basketball. During the summer, Mazza will help run the Ceres High basketball camp.

Brown said she will play basketball at the junior college level. Modesto JC coach Mike Girardi attended a handful of games, including the season finale.

Franksen will play softball in college.

"It's been a good four years," Brown said. "I have no regrets." - By DALE BUTLER / Staff Reporter of The Ceres (Calif.) Courier