Los Banos edged out Ceres High for the Western Athletic Conference South Division boys basketball title during the 2020-21 school year.
The shorthanded Bulldogs exacted revenge with a 45-39 win over the Tigers in WAC play on Friday at Phil de la Porte Gymnasium.
Ceres High delighted its homecoming fans.
“It’s a big win for the guys,” said Bulldog Coach T.J. Walker Jr. .
“We haven’t seen a crowd like that in two years since this COVID stuff,” he added.
The Bulldogs competed without leading-scorer Verlis Smith, who traveled to Colorado for a football recruiting visit.
“I wasn’t really concerned,” Walker said. “We didn’t change anything. We’ve won without a starter before. We have other guys that can step up. They believe in each other.”
Lebron Stallworth led Ceres High in scoring with 19 points. He had seven rebounds.
“Lebron is our X-factor every night,” Walker said. “When he starts off aggressive, it sets the tone. He can be a very special player if he brings that energy and plays like that every game.”
Adrian Ontiveros collected 10 points and 11 rebounds.
“It’s a blessing to have a guy like that. He does everything for us.”
Ricky Stanley contributed four points and 10 rebounds.
“His activity on both sides of the ball was awesome."
Ceres High limited Los Banos to just 39 points.
“We hang our hats on the defensive end,” said Walker. “For us to be successful, we have to stop people.”
Ceres High topped visiting Johansen 60-52 on Jan. 12.
Smith poured in a season-high 30 points and grabbed eight rebounds.
Fernando Franco added 14 points and three rebounds.
Second-place Ceres High improved to 9-7 overall and 2-1 in the WAC standings.
“I’m happy with where we’re at,” Walker said. “But we still have a long ways to go.”
Hawks win once
Central Valley High School’s boys basketball team wrapped preseason play with a 1-2 showing at the Livingston Tournament.
“It’s kind of the same story,” head coach Mike Rodriguez said. “We have a tendency to play to our competitions’ level. The focus isn’t the same.”
The 8-8 Hawks are scheduled to begin Central California Conference play this week following the postponement of several league games because of COVID-19 protocols.
“We should have won a few more games,” Rodriguez said. “It will be interesting to see how we do in league.”
Central Valley closed out the Livingston Tournament with a 78-73 win over Buhach Colony on Dec. 30.
Jordan Powers led the Hawks in scoring with 22 points.
Gage Mastropierro, Yoshi Kumar and Ricky Logan had 18, 15 and 13 points, respectively.
Hilmar rallied for a 68-62 victory against Central Valley on Dec. 29.
Powers scored a team-high 17 points.
Jomari Ocasiones added 13 points.
Logan and Mastropierro contributed eight and seven points, respectively.
Escalon banked in a 3-pointer at the buzzer to stun Central Valley 52-51 on Dec. 28.
Kumar paced the Hawks with 14 points.
Powers, Ocasiones and Logan netted 12, nine and eight points, respectively.
Powers earned all-tourney honors.
He averaged 17.0 points per game.
“He had a solid tournament,” Rodriguez said. “He was our leading scorer and rebounder.”
Bulldogs extend streak
Ceres High’s girls basketball team has reeled off three straight wins since opening Western Athletic Conference play with a loss.
“Everybody is falling into their role at this point of the season,” head coach Michael Estrada Jr. said. “The pieces didn’t fit together in preseason. That’s something we had to work on.”
The Bulldogs improved to 6-11 overall and remained in a tie for second place with Lathrop in the Western Athletic Conference standings after posting a 56-45 win over Johansen on Jan. 11 in Modesto.
“We sped up the game to a tempo our team likes,” said Estrada. “We like to get moving up and down the court.”
Celeste Leon tallied a team-high 24 points against the Vikings.
Mia Rodriguez added 19 points.
Jaleen Melendez had seven points.
Ceres High held on for a 44-41 win over Pacheco on Jan. 10 at Phil de la Porte Gymnasium.
“It was a lot closer than it needed to be,” Estrada said. “We gave them some life at the end. We need to be more focused for all four quarters. Every possession matters.”
Leon led the Bulldogs with 21 points.
Rodriguez totaled nine points.
Citlali Miranda collected eight points.
De La Torre had four points.
Sandra Espinoza contributed two points.
Ceres High dropped its WAC opener, 46-36, at Lathrop on Jan. 4.
The Bulldogs’ last three wins came against Johansen, Pacheco and Beyer.
“We’re sitting where we should be,” Estrada said. “Hopefully, we can keep winning games to stay in the playoff picture. I definitely think we’re a top-three team in our league.”