Nicole Bates delighted Bulldog teammates, coaches and fans.
Bates buried a wide-open jumper from the free-throw line at the buzzer to lift Ceres High School's varsity girls basketball squad to a 48-47 win over crosstown-rival Central Valley Thursday night on the road.
"Everything slowed down when it happened," Nicole said. "I honestly thought it would be short but it ended up going in. It's amazing. I'll never forget that."
The Bulldogs (1-5) finally broke into the Western Athletic Conference win column.
The Hawks dropped to 2-3 in league play.
Central Valley defeated Ceres High 42-34 on Jan. 9 at Phil de la Porte Gymnasium.
"We didn't underestimate them," Hawks point guard Mikayla Mabie said. "We could have played a little smarter. We could have communicated better."
Bates scored 10 of her game-high 18 points in the second quarter.
Perla Vargas and Jessica Arreola tallied 12 and 10 points, respectively.
Kinsey Ward and Adriana Haynes both contributed three points.
Karina Ceja had two points.
Mabie, a transfer from Turlock, led Central Valley in scoring with a career-high 15 points.
Tamara Uti, Lindsey Alexander and Mia Lorenzo totaled 12, 10 and four points, respectively.
Casey McCloskey, Ali Martinez and Heaven Simon chipped in with two points apiece.
Uti, McCloskey and Bianca Zuniga all fouled out.
The Bulldogs enjoyed a 40-16 advantage in free-throw attempts. Ceres High drained 14, while Central Valley converted three.
"We weren't shooting 3-pointers," Bates said. "We were just driving."
Ceres High and Central Valley battled to 26-all tie in the opening half.
Arreola had nine points in the first quarter.
Mabie netted eight points in the second quarter.
The Bulldogs outscored the Hawks 22-21 after intermission. Vargas collected eight points in the final period.
Mikayla's jumper from the left baseline gave Central Valley a 47-43 lead at the 1:33 mark of the fourth quarter.
Perla's close-range basket cut the deficit to 47-46 with 37 seconds left in regulation.
The Hawks turned the ball over with 17 seconds to play.
Unable to get a clean look, Haynes found a wide-open Bates near the foul line. Nicole buried the game-winning shot, jumped into the air and celebrated with her teammates.
Stunned, Central Valley players walked slowly off the court.
"There's pressure," said Bates, a first-team all-Western Athletic Conference selection as a freshman. "I just have to let it go and play. I'm just so excited we got a win in league. Everybody contributed today."
Added Mabie: "Nicole Bates is a really good player. I love competing against her."