Fueled by a hot start, Ceres High School's varsity boys basketball team boosted its playoff hopes with a 60-47 win over host Los Banos Wednesday evening.
The Bulldogs outscored the Tigers 23-7 in the opening period.
"It's one of the best first quarters we've had this year," Ceres High head coach Julio Marquez said. "We played solid defense. We didn't turn the ball over. It was great to see."
The Bulldogs improved to 9-13 on the year and remained in third place in the Western Athletic Conference standings (6-3).
Ceres High and crosstown-rival Central Valley (5-4) are battling for the WAC's final playoff berth.
The Bulldogs and Hawks both participated in the postseason last year.
"Our next goal is to make the playoffs," Marquez said. "Hopefully, we get another opportunity."
Ceres High sophomore center Christian Garcia tallied a game-high 23 points versus Los Banos.
Austin Stiles, 12 points, also scored in double figures.
Marcellus Boykins totaled nine points.
Ismael Ontiveros and Haaydn Martinez both had seven points.
Blane Abeyta added two points.
"I'm not surprised," Marquez said while talking about Garcia's production on the offensive end. "I don't think his teammates are too surprised either. He played up with us all summer. He showed he could compete at the varsity level. He's a pretty good athlete. He's one of the bigger kids in the league size-wise. He's only going to continue to get stronger. If he stays healthy, there's no telling what he could do."
Ceres High shot 44 percent (22 of 50) from the field, 25 percent from 3-point range (2 of 8) and 56 percent (14 of 25) from the free-throw line against Los Banos.
The Bulldogs have won five of their last six games.
Ceres High struggled during non-conference play.
"The kids understand what it takes to win in tough situations," Marquez said. "They're executing when we need to. Our preseason schedule prepared us for league."
Ceres HIih will host Patterson today and Central Valley on Thursday.
Both games will get underway at 7:30 p.m.
The Bulldogs are looking to make their second straight postseason appearance.
"We're shooting for playoffs," Marquez said. "I wouldn't consider the season a failure if we didn't make it. It's never a cakewalk to get there."