Ceres High School's varsity boys basketball team put a scare into Vanden in the first round of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division-III playoffs last week in Fairfield.
The 18th-seeded Bulldogs kept the game close in the first half before falling 83-64 to the No. 2 Vikings Wednesday night at Jim Boyd Gym.
"We were down by three at half," Ceres High head coach Julio Marquez said. "It was really close. Their fans were pretty shocked. We had them on their heels. But we could never catch up. We went down fighting."
Vanden improved to 23-5 overall and advance to the quarterfinal round of the playoffs.
The Bulldogs went 14-12 on the year and placed third in the Western Athletic Conference standings (7-5).
"This group of kids understood what I expected," Marquez said. "As the season progressed, they got closer as a team. They grasped the offense better."
Junior forward-guard Austin Stiles led the Bulldogs in scoring this past week with 16 points.
Joshneil Sandu added 12 points.
Stiles was slowed by an ankle injury for most of the season.
"He was just attacking," Marquez said. "That's one of his strengths."
Ceres High trailed 13-11 at the end of the first quarter and 31-28 heading into the second half.
The Vikings outscored the Bulldogs 20-10 in the momentum-swaying third quarter.
"Everybody did what they needed to do in the first half," said Marquez, whose team led 4-2 early in the game. "They made it more difficult for us to run our offense in the second half. We still got shots. We just had too many turnovers, which resulted in a couple of dunks for them. Our guys didn't quit."
Ceres High erased a 14-point deficit on its way to stunning No. 15 El Dorado 58-54 in a Division-III out-bracket playoff game on Feb. 20. The Bulldogs last won in the postseason during the 2000-01 school year.
"It's a big achievement for Ceres High," said Marquez, second-year leader of the Bulldogs. "Hopefully, it's the start of something good."