Waged in a back-and-forth battle with Central Catholic, Ceres High's varsity girls basketball team struggled during crunch time.
The Raiders snapped the Bulldogs' three-game winning streak with a 49-33 victory Thursday evening at Phil de la Porte Gymnasium.
"If we played Central Catholic two months ago, we would have lost by 30," Ceres High head coach Heather Jones said. "We have a young team. I'm proud of how they played today. Central Catholic has a good team. We stuck with them."
The Bulldogs dropped to 3-6 in the Western Athletic Conference.
The Raiders improved to 8-2 in league play.
Sophomore Nicole Bates scored a team-high 13 points for Ceres High.
Perla Vargas, Karina Ceja and freshman Adriana Haynes tallied 10, five and four points, respectively.
Sophomore Jessica Arreola had one point.
Margaret Gallo and Danielle Freidrich both scored a game-high 21 points for Central Catholic.
The Bulldogs and Raiders battled to a 17-17 tie in the opening half.
Ceres High trailed 31-26 at the end of the third quarter.
Down 31-26, Ceres High mustered just seven points in the fourth quarter. Gallo accounted for 11 of Central Catholic's final 18 points before exiting the contest with a knee injury.
"It's disappointing," Vargas said. "We could have played better defense and boxed out more. That would have kept the game closer. We tried our best. We worked hard. We were thinking too much."
Added Jones: "Today, we didn't play up to Ceres standards. My girls lost their energy. They started freaking out."
Dawgs 45, Wolves 31
Ceres High defeated host Livingston 45-31 on Tuesday, Feb. 4.
Bates had a team-high 15 points.
Vargas, Arreola and Ceja collected 13, seven and six points, respectively.
Triana Burgess and Alyssa Sanchez contributed two points each.
Ceres High fell behind 15-12 in the first half.
The Bulldogs outscored the Wolves 33-16 in the second half, including 15-2 in the third quarter.
"We're playing smarter," Vargas said. "We're just trying to improve and work hard. Next, year we're going to be better."
"I'm so excited for the future," Jones stated.
Ceres High's final three WAC games are against visiting Pacheco (Feb. 11) and Livingston (Feb. 13), and host Central Catholic (Feb. 18).