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Lancers eliminate Bulldogs
Ismael Ontiveros helped Ceres Highs varsity boys basketball team reach its goal this season. The Bulldogs qualified for the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs for the second year in a row. - photo by DALE BUTLER/The Courier

Ceres High School's varsity boys basketball dropped its Sac-Joaquin Section Division-III out-bracket playoff game 68-59 to Cordova on Feb. 19.

The sixteenth-seeded Lancers defended their home court and ended the No. 17 Bulldogs' season.

"They hit some tough, contested shots," Ceres High head coach Julio Marquez said. "We went dry for a while."

The Bulldogs compiled a 12-14 overall record and finished third in the Western Athletic Conference standings (8-4) this year.

The second-place Lancers of the Sierra Valley Conference (8-2) improved to 17-12 on the year.

"They met my expectations for the season," Marquez said. "We're a young team. I can only see us getting better."

Ceres High had three players score in double figures against Cordova, including Ismael Ontiveros (16), Haaydn Martinez (15) and Austin Stiles (15).

Ontiveros, a junior guard, shot 50 percent (4 of 8) from 3-point range.

Bulldog sophomore center Christian Garcia was limited to four points. He didn't attempt a shot in the second and third quarters. Garcia averaged 13 points per game in WAC play.

Nick Jones tallied five points.

Blane Abeyta and Trevor Nash both contributed two points.

"Christian got into foul trouble early and never found his groove," Marquez said.

Cordova's Jason Novik totaled a game-high 23 points.

DeAnte Wilkins and Damion Baldwin added 17 and 10 points, respectively.

The Bulldogs trailed 28-23 at halftime.

Cordova outscored Ceres High 24-15 in the third quarter.

"Our shots weren't falling," Marquez said. "We got good looks."

Ceres High participated in the playoffs for the second consecutive year despite struggling mightily during non-league play.

The Bulldogs won seven of their final nine conference games.

"I set up a tough preseason schedule," Marquez said. "Seventy-five percent of the teams we played were in the in the playoffs. I'll do the same thing next season."

Stiles, a third-year varsity player, will be lost to graduation.

"That will be a tough person to replace," Marquez said. "He did a lot of different things for us."