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Bulldogs secure playoff spot with crosstown victory
Cristian Garcia and Ceres Highs varsity boys basketball team rolled to a 73-49 home win over crosstown-rival Central Valley Friday night. The Bulldogs and Hawks placed second and third, respectively, in the WAC standings. - photo by DALE BUTLER/The Courier

A standing-room-only crowd packed Phil de la Porte Gymnasium Friday night to watch the 23rd meeting between Ceres High's and Central Valley's varsity boys basketball teams.

Facing a must-win situation, the host Bulldogs clinched a playoff berth on the final day of the regular season with a 73-49 romp over the crosstown-rival Hawks on Feb. 10.

"This is the type of performance I expected to see," Ceres High head coach Julio Marquez said. "Everybody helped. It just wasn't one guy."

The Bulldogs improved to 15-11 overall and finished second in the Western Athletic Conference (7-3).

The Hawks dropped to 10-15 on the year and posted a 6-4 record on their way to securing the WAC's third postseason spot.

"We gave it our all," Ceres High senior guard Haaydn Martinez said. "We didn't want to lose our last game and not go to playoffs. We wanted it more than them. We executed on offense and made some stops on defense. We had home-court advantage so I knew we'd have the edge."

Bulldog junior Inder Sandhu poured in a game-high 21 points against the Hawks.

Martinez, Ismael Ontiveros and junior Cristian Garcia all contributed 13 points.

Nick Jones chipped in with nine points.

Gurraj Purewal and Vincent Guerrero both had two points.

Ralph Afortunado paced Central Valley in scoring with 12 points.

Sidhu added seven points

Gurshan Chahal and Grant Neang both chippi in six.

Andres Rojo and Daniel Villasenor netted four points each.

Miguel Jimenez, Alonzo Bustos and Karnveer Chahal had five, three and two points, respectively.

Sandhu buried three treys and totaled 15 points as Ceres High built a 33-23 lead in the first half. Jones tallied all nine of his points in the opening 16 minutes.

The Bulldogs outscored the Hawks 25-9 in the momentum-seizing third quarter.

"Our mindset was to win," Sidhu said. "If we kept the pressure on, we could have made it a good game. We let down."

"Our guys put in a good week of practice," Marquez said. "We executed as a team. We did a really good job on the defensive end."

"We had to win this game," Martinez said. "We stepped up in the second half."

Ceres High improved its all-time record versus Central Valley to 12-11. The Bulldogs defeated the Hawks 62-39 earlier this season.

"It's a bit nerve racking," Garcia said while talking about the crosstown rivalry. "But it's always fun."

Ceres High will participate in the playoffs for the third consecutive season.

Central Valley advanced to the playoffs for the third time in four years.

"We have a tradition of going to playoffs every year," Garcia said. "That's the standard we hold ourselves to."

"We wanted second place so we'd have a better seed for playoffs," Sidhu said. "It wasn't a good day for us. They put it on us. We didn't expect this to happen. We were prepared. We just didn't execute what we wanted."