Ceres High’s girls basketball team lost 38-28 to Central Valley at its home tournament on Nov. 26
The Bulldogs earned a measure of redemption while securing a hard-fought 55-47 victory over the crosstown-rival Hawks on Dec. 6 at Phil de la Porte Gymnasium.
“We’re a more complete team,” Ceres High head coach Mike Estrada Jr. said. “We just had to go out and show it. Taking the first loss to heart really helped our team. We were knocking down shots and being more aggressive on offense.”
Bulldog veterans Mia Rodriguez and Celeste Leon combined to score 42 points versus the Hawks (2-6).
Rodriguez led Ceres High (1-3) with a season-high 24 points. She made 12 of 21 free throws.
Leon had a season-high 18 points.
“They’re playing with a lot of confidence,” Estrada said. “They’ve been playing at the varsity level for four years.”
Bulldog teammates Jaleen Melendez, Alayna De La Torre and Sandra Espinoza added seven, four and two points, respectively.
Alyssa Rojo led Central Valley with 13 points.
Makayla Dennison and Kareena Kang finished with 10 points apiece.
Delia Vidal tallied six points.
Aleecia Silva netted three points.
Rinah Dulay and Jasman Kaur both contributed two points.
Tatyanna Valencia had one point.
Ceres High outscored Central Valley 16-11 in the first quarter on its way to building a 22-16 lead in the opening half.
The Bulldogs totaled 33 points after intermission, just two more than the Hawks.
The Bulldogs exacted revenge against the much-improved Hawks.
“The difference was our defense and rebounding,” Estrada said. “It prevented them from doing what they wanted to do. We were able to get into a better rhythm, offensively.”
Ceres High and Central Valley were supposed to play twice during the 2020-21 school year but both games were canceled due to COVID-safety reasons.
“We didn’t get to play them because we had to quarantine,” Estrada said. “One of the teams we played tested positive.”
Central Valley failed to win a game last season.
Ceres High compiled a 4-3 record.
“The girls definitely look forward to playing Central Valley because they’re crosstown rivals,” Estrada said. “They know a lot of students from that school.”
Yoshi Kumar and Verlis Smith shared a hug at midcourt following last week’s Central Valley-Ceres High boys basketball game.
Kumar and the host Hawks topped Smith and the crosstown-rival Bulldogs 68-57 in non-conference play Friday evening at CV.
“We knew if we did everything right and pushed ourselves, we were going to win the game,” Kumar said. “We played with heart and hustled every play.”
“You never want to lose to CV, but it was a good game until the end,” Smith said.
The Bulldogs and Hawks had a combined record of 10-2 heading into the rivalry game.
Central Valley improved to 6-2 on the season.
Ceres High (5-1) suffered its first loss.
The Hawks posted an 0-11 record and lost all 10 of their games against Western Athletic Conference South competition during the 2020-21 school year. The Bulldogs went 5-10 and finished second in the WAC standings (5-3).
“I wouldn’t say it’s a surprise,” Kumar stated while talking about his team’s turnaround from a season ago. “This is something we’ve been pushing for. Our mentality changed. We’re being more aggressive and playing with intent. Everyone pushes and helps each other.”
Kumar buried four treys on his way to tallying a team-high 25 points versus the Bulldogs last week.
Gage Mastropierro made five treys and totaled 21 points.
Jomari Ocasiones tallied seven points.
Alex Prado and Jordan Powers chipped in with six points each.
Jeremy Alvarez added three points.
Smith poured in a game-high 34 points against the Hawks.
Adrian Ontiveros added nine points.
Lebron Stallworth, Donivan Turley, Fernando Franco and Tavion Travis all contributed three points.
Jacob Swanson had two points.
Central Valley trailed by just one point, 30-29, at intermission.
The Hawks outscored the Bulldogs 48-27 during the second half, including 22-16 in the final period.
Late in the game, Central Valley’s student-cheering section directed “Why so quiet?” chants at Ceres High fans.
“I felt we had the better team,” Smith said. “But that goes out the window whenever we play. Records don’t matter.”
“It came down to hitting shots,” he added. “That was the biggest thing.”
“As a team, we’re really never satisfied,” Kumar said. “But we’re happy with the win we got. When someone else brings the intensity, we’re going to bring it right back to them. The entire team was a part of the win. Our shots were falling.”
The Hawks lost twice to the Bulldogs in WAC South play this past season.
Ceres High prevailed by scores of 57-28 and 53-41.
The Hawks edged the Bulldogs 20-18 in football this year.
“The intensity is always high when we play CV no matter the sport,” said Smith, who caught five passes for 121 yards and one touchdown in defeat on the gridiron.