Ceres High’s boys basketball team finished second overall in the Western Athletic Conference South Division standings during the 2020-21 school year.
The Bulldogs won five of their eight games.
“I’m proud of the boys,” head coach T.J. Walker said. “They played hard. They were committed all year long.”
Ceres High had an overall record of 5-10.
The Bulldogs beat Central Valley and Pacheco twice, and Johansen once in conference play.
Ceres High lost twice to WAC South champion Los Banos and once to third-place Johansen.
The Bulldogs’ two games against WAC North member Grace Davis were canceled due to COVID protocols.
Ceres High’s non-league losses were to Calaveras, Golden Valley, Central Catholic, Downey, Modesto Christian, Denair and Venture Academy.
“We had a tough preseason schedule,” Walker said. “I’m sad we didn’t get the opportunity to have a whole year (due to COVID).”
“I’m really proud of our team for the way we played,” Bulldogs’ senior center Samar Singh said.
Ceres High closed out the 2020-21 campaign with a 72-61 loss to visiting Calaveras in non-league play on Senior Night at Phil de la Porte Gymnasium on May 29.
“Calaveras is a well-coached team,” Walker said. “We made our run late in the game. They hit back-to-back 3s. That killed us.”
Singh, Inderraj Dhillon, Andrew Kommavong, Ryan Ashby, Mike Leon, Gabe Newton and Noah Avalos, Ceres High’s seven upperclassmen, suited up for the Bulldogs for the final time.
They graduated from Ceres High on June 4.
“I can’t say enough about them,” Walker said. “They set the tone for the program this year. They were great leaders.”
Dhillon had 18 points, three rebounds and three assists against Calaveras.
Kommavong contributed 13 points and five rebounds.
Junior Verlis Smith tallied 19 points and seven rebounds.
Ceres High suffered back-to-back losses to Los Banos during the final week of the WAC South season.
The Tigers dashed the Bulldogs’ league title hopes.
“It would have been a different outcome if we had all of our players. But there were circumstances we couldn’t control. We had a good mindset going into the games. I’m actually pretty happy with how we played.”Samar Singh
“It would have been a different outcome if we had all of our players,” Singh said. “But there were circumstances we couldn’t control. We had a good mindset going into the games. I’m actually pretty happy with how we played.”
“We had plenty of chances to win both of those games,” Walker said.
Los Banos edged Ceres High by one point, 67-66, on May 21 at Phil de la Porte Gymnasium.
DaMari Tate, MVP of the WAC South, buried what proved to be a game-winning foul shot with 8 seconds left in regulation.
Tate was awarded another free-throw attempt because of a lane violation.
“We just made some not-varsity decisions late in the fourth quarter,” Walker said.
Singh scored a game-high 32 points and grabbed eight rebounds in defeat.
Kommavong and Dhillon had seven and six points, respectively.
Ceres High lost 66-57 at Los Banos on May 20.
“We were up four late in the fourth,” Walker said. “We just couldn’t pull it out.”
Singh totaled 19 points and seven rebounds.
Dhillon added 14 points and five assists.
Kommavong chipped in with 10 points and four rebounds.
Verlis Smith didn’t play in either game as he was placed into COVID quarantine for a second time.
“It definitely would have been different with Verlis on the floor,” Walker said. “We had no answer for him (Tate). Verlis is a workaholic. He’s versatile with his size, strength and speed.”
Smith and Bulldog teammates Adrian Ontiveros and Lebron Stallworth will return to the team next season.
“We got a good group coming back,” Walker said. “We’re expecting big things from him (Smith).”