Ceres High's varsity boys basketball program showed grit, determination and no fear while playing in the ultra-competitive Holiday Hoop Classic for the first time this past week at Salida's Modesto Christian High School.
The Bulldogs posted a 1-3 record on their way to a 12th-place finish at the 16-team event.
"It's an honor playing in this tournament," said Cristian Garcia, Ceres High's 6-foot-6 junior center. "It's good competition and preparation for the regular season. We can play at this level with high-caliber teams."
Ceres High lost 71-47 to Berkeley during Friday's 11th-place showdown.
Garcia tallied a team-high 23 points.
Inder Sandhu, Donnavin Koeurn, Nick Jones and Marcellus Boykins added 11, five, four and two points, respectively.
Haaydn Martinez and Gurraj Purewal both had one point.
Consolation-champion Beyer routed Ceres High 82-51 on Thursday.
Garcia led the Bulldogs with 17 points.
Sandhu totaled 16 points.
Martinez and Ismael Ontiveros collected nine and three points, respectively.
Boykins, Jones and Purewal all contributed two points.
Martinez, Garcia and Sandhu had 18, 12 and 10 points, respectively, in Ceres High's 57-46 win over Castlemont of Oakland on Wednesday.
Jones and Ontiveros finished with eight points apiece.
Ceres High suffered a 68-54 loss while battling third-place/host Modesto Christian in the opening round on Dec. 27.
The tradition-rich Crusaders pulled away during the fourth quarter.
"They chose to play us because they thought it would be an easy win," Garcia said. "They didn't expect much out of us. Ceres is always overlooked with all these stacked teams. We tried to prove people wrong."
Unstoppable inside, Garcia poured in a team-high 22 points.
Ontiveros added 10 points.
Jones and Martinez netted nine points each.
Sandhu had four points.
"I've played against a lot of their guys through travel ball," Garcia said. "I'm used to the competition."
The Bulldogs kept the game close for three quarters.
Ceres High led 28-26 at halftime.
Down 48-45, the Bulldogs were outscored 20-9 in the final period.
"Our intensity level went down," Garcia said. "We got sloppy towards the end."
The Crusaders also dominated the boards.
"We tried jumping with them instead of putting a body on their bigs," Cristian said.
Garcia averaged a team-leading 21 points per game at the Holiday Hoop Classic.
"Overall, I did pretty well," he said. "But there's always something I can improve on. I need to work on boxing out."
Ceres High (7-8) will begin Western Athletic Conference play on the road this Friday. The Bulldogs will face the Los Banos Tigers at 7:30 p.m.