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Hawks reach unprecedented heights due to hard work and dedication
It didn't happen overnight.

Central Valley High School's varsity girls basketball program struggled mightily before reaching unprecedented heights under head coach Jesse Padilla's guidance.

"It took a lot of time," said Padilla, who led the Hawks to a 34-15 overall record, and back-to-back Western Athletic Conference titles and Sac-Joaquin Section playoff berths following a forgettable first four seasons. "Hopefully it starts a trend."

Central Valley ascended to the top of the WAC standings thanks in large part to the dedication of all of its players. The Hawks developed team chemistry and learned new plays during the summertime.

"I don't turn anyone away if this is what they want to do," Padilla said.

Central Valley's summer team will play 31 games this month.

The Hawks won four of their first five games at Modesto JC, beating Atwater, Sonora, Sierra and Tracy. Central Valley lost to Riverbank.

The Hawks will also attend basketball camps at the University of the Pacific and Chico State.

"It's still a work in progress," Padilla said. "I don't have a set group yet."

Brittany Martinez, Mia Lorenzo, Catrina Castillo and Hannah Baker are varsity returners.

Newcomers Tamara Uti, Alex Martinez, Veronica Duarte, Jazareth Valencia, Bianca Zuniga, Nicholette Mendez, Alyssa Washburn, Lindsey Alexander and Melissa Afortunado are newcomers.

Uti, Martinez, Duarte, Valencia, Zuniga, Mendez, Washburn and Alexander suited up for the Hawks' 6-6 JV team a season ago.

Alexander played a major role while leading Central Valley's freshman girls basketball team to a first-place finish (11-1) in the WAC.

Brittany, a 6-foot-2 center, was selected to the WAC first team. She averaged 11.3 points, 12.8 rebounds, 3.1 blocks, 1.5 steals and shot 46 percent from the field.

"This could be one of our best teams," Padilla said.

Central Valley fielded its inaugural varsity girls basketball team in 2006-07. The Hawks lost all 14 of their league games and posted a 2-21 overall record.

Central Valley was a combined 21-81 from 2006-10.

The Hawks totaled 34 wins the past two seasons. Central Valley had a winning percentage of .818 in WAC play (18-4) during that span.

The Hawks will be vying for their third straight conference crown and playoff berth during the 2012-13 school year.

"That's what we're striving for," said Padilla, Central Valley's first and only leader and the WAC's two-time coach of the year.

The Hawks lost eight players to graduation from last year's team, including Valerie Olide, Diana Carmona, Vivien Fermil, Geena Wade, Melinda Camarillo, Penny Chanthavong, Amanda Wheeler and Cynthia Andrade.