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Ceres High’s girls basketball program has a new leader in Megan McGill
Marissa Renteria and Jaleen Melendez
Marissa Renteria, Jaleen Melendez and Ceres High’s girls basketball team will compete under the guidance of first-year head coach Megan McGill this winter. - photo by Dale Butler

Former Ceres High School girls basketball head coach Shawna Nunes has the utmost confidence in new leader Megan McGill.

McGill coached hoops at the lower-level for the past three seasons before earning a promotion to the varsity position. The 2016 Johansen graduate has been teaching English at the high school for six years.

“She (McGill) is going to be the coach who takes CHS to the next level,” said Nunes, who guided the Bulldogs to 365 wins, one section championship, six league titles and 15 playoff berths from 1993-2011. “I told her that her first year at CHS. She is the perfect person to lead CHS. She has the knowledge, talent, skill and desire to be phenomenal. The young women at CHS are lucky to have her leading them.”

“Nunes is the one that convinced me to coach when I started teaching at the school,” McGill said. “I’m excited for the opportunity. We have a great group of kids. I definitely do feel pressure. At the varsity level, people want you to win.”

McGill inherits a program that lost six players to graduation, including four-year starters Celeste Leon and Mia Rodriguez, and Alayna De La Torre, Sandra Espinoza, Jalaycie Melendez and Citlali Miranda.

Leon was selected to the Western Athletic Conference First Team.

Rodriguez earned second-team all-WAC honors.

Leon averaged 15.5 points, 4.1 rebounds and 2.1 steals per game.

Rodriguez averaged 13.2 points, 3.2 rebounds, 1.7 steals and 1.4 assists per game. She missed Ceres High’s final four games due to injury.

The Bulldogs return five players from a season ago, including Carmen Espinoza (Sr.), Jaleen Melendez (Sr.), Alexa Sandoval (Sr.), Valeria Arroyo (Jr.) and Makenna Azevedo (Jr.).

Ceres High has seven newcomers in Ally Gamboa Rozell (Sr.), Karicia Ramos (Sr.), Gabby Rebello (Jr.), Marissa Renteria (Jr.), Emma Sexton (So.) Nehemia Valenzuela (So.) and Sovannary Carter (Fr.).

McGill coached Rebello, Sexton and Valenzuela at the JV level.

Gamboa Rozell, Ramos, Renteria and Carter are first-year players.

“We got a lot of young girls,” McGill said. “We don’t have the experience. We’re going to build a solid foundation. This team has the potential to be very good. The girls mesh really well together. They all like each other. They all trust each other. They have a desire to get better. They’re very coachable. I want them to give maximum effort and be great teammates.”

Melendez and Espinoza have been named team captains.

Melendez is Ceres High’s top returning scorer.

She averaged 4.1 points, 1.6 rebounds and 1.2 steals per game as a junior.

Espinoza averaged 0.8 points, 1.9 rebounds and 1.2 steals this past season.

“They’ve taken the other girls under their wings and stepped into that leadership role on and off the court,” McGill said.

McGill will be Ceres High’s eighth head coach in the past 11 years. Husband Jeff will serve as the Bulldogs’ assistant coach.

Megan replaced Michael Estrada Jr., who had a 34-53 record and two winning seasons in his four-year stint with the Bulldogs.

Ceres High had six different head coaches prior to Estrada’s arrival, including Aimee Gunzenhauser, Chad Hammond, Mike Turpin, Kristen McClure, Heather Jones and Vanessa Morris.

The Bulldogs secured their last playoff berth under Morris’ guidance in 2012-13. Ceres High finished 10-8 and took third in the WAC (6-4).

Shorthanded Ceres High posted a 7-20 overall record and finished sixth in the WAC (4-10) this past winter. The Bulldogs lost their final nine games.

Los Banos (12-2) claimed the league title.

Lathrop (11-3), Johansen (9-5), Mountain House (8-6) and Pacheco (6-8) placed second, third, fourth and fifth, respectively.

Beyer (3-11) and Grace Davis (3-11) tied for last.

Los Banos, Lathrop and Johansen all qualified for the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs.

“We got a lot of potential this year,” McGill said. “We’re going to get better. It’s a tough league. There are a lot of schools that are really talented. I honestly do think playoffs are a possibility if the girls play to their potential. I’d love to see a WAC championship banner in the gym. That would be a dream come true.”

Ceres High enjoyed its most successful season since 2012-13 during Estrada’s second year coaching.

The 2019-20 Bulldogs amassed a 15-13 overall record and placed fourth in the WAC standings (8-6).

Ceres High snapped its streak of six straight losing seasons. The Bulldogs came agonizingly close to ending years of playoff futility. Ceres High dropped out of postseason contention after losing back-to-back games to Los Banos.

The Bulldogs competed in the WAC South Division for coronavirus-safety reasons during the 2020-21 school year. Limited to just seven games, Ceres High compiled a 4-3 and took second in league play (4-2). Playoffs were postponed for all sports because of a late start to the season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. McGill served as an assistant coach on Estrada’s staff.

Ceres High finished 8-17 and sixth in the WAC (4-10) during Estrada’s first season.

“I watched Mike and learned a lot of drills, plays and techniques from him,” McGill said. 

Megan McGill coach
Megan McGill has been promoted to head coach of Ceres High School’s girls' basketball program. - photo by Dale Butler