Central Valley High School's varsity boys basketball team put its Western Athletic Conference unbeaten record and eight-game win streak on the line against Ceres High last week.
The Hawks held off a late rally by the shorthanded Bulldogs to win 51-42 Friday night at Phil de la Porte Gymnasium.
"We were looking forward to the challenge," said Jaron Dickson, a fourth-year guard with Central Valley. "The whole team was ready. We knew what we were going up against. We were the better team tonight."
Unstoppable on the hardcourt, Dickson collected a game-high 23 points versus Ceres High.
Parker Griffin added nine points.
Daevon Brown, Devon Bolivar, Nimrat Chahal and Alexis Villa chipped in with eight, six, three and two points, respectively.
Former Hawk Ramon Coral led the Bulldogs with 13 points and nine rebounds.
Joshneil Sandhu accumulated nine points, two rebounds and one assist.
Nick Burt tallied eight points and seven rebounds.
Puneet Sahi contributed five points, six rebounds and two assists.
Haadyn Martinez totaled four points and two rebounds.
Jonathan Williams scored two points.
Brad Bussard had one point.
Austin Stiles, a key member of Ceres High's starting unit, was sidelined with an ankle injury.
"If Stiles played, it would have made a difference," Dickson said. "He's obviously a good player. But I feel like we win no matter what."
"It would have been a very different game if Austin was here," Coral said. "He's a big asset to our team."
Central Valley led by as many as 18 points in the third quarter before having to stave off a late rally by Ceres High.
The Hawks outscored the Bulldogs 29-19 in the opening half. Jaron buried three treys and totaled 11 points. Griffin had seven points.
"Ceres High's pressure got to us in the second half," Hawks head coach Darryl Dickson said. "You got to give them credit. They made a good run. They tired us out. We squeaked out a win in a tough place to play. We're happy."
Ceres High cut the deficit to 45-40 when Coral made two free throws with 1:49 to play.
"It wasn't a blowout," said Ramon, who scored 11 points in the second half. "We got within five points in the fourth quarter. The momentum shifted. We just couldn't finish."
Central Valley's student-cheering section chanted, "This game's over," prior to the end of the crosstown contest.
Ceres High fans responded by chanting, "Let's play football."
The Bulldogs ended a seven-year losing streak versus the Hawks on the gridiron this past fall.
"It's always crazy here," Jaron Dickson said. "The fans are practically on the court for both sides. I'm accustomed to it now. I've loved playing in big games ever since I was a kid. I love the pressure."
Central Valley improved to 16-3 overall and 6-0 in the WAC.
Ceres High dropped to 10-8 and 4-2.
The Bulldogs squandered a chance to move into a tie for first place atop the conference standings with the Hawks.
"We like where we're sitting," coach Dickson said. "But it's only the first half of the season. There's a lot left to do. There are no easy games. Every team's going to be gunning for us."
Central Valley will play host to Patterson today and at El Capitan on Friday. Both WAC games will begin at 7:30 p.m.
Ceres High will face visiting El Capitan today and Livingston on Friday.
The Hawks and Bulldogs will square off at Central Valley on Feb. 13. "We know their strengths and weaknesses," Coral said. "They're a beatable team."