Ceres High School's freshman boys basketball team fell short in its quest to win a share of the Western Athletic Conference championship.
Central Catholic won the league crown outright on Feb. 18 as it edged out the Bulldogs 47-43 at Phil de la Porte Gymnasium.
"There was no tears in the locker room after the game," Ceres High head coach Tracy Bull said. "The kids were pretty upbeat. Nobody had their head down. We played well. No shame in losing to a great team."
The Bulldogs finished 20-5 overall and second in league play (10-2).
The Raiders went 21-4 and 12-0.
The two teams combined for 41 wins and just nine losses this year.
Ceres High lost 47-45 at the buzzer to Central Catholic on Feb. 7 in Modesto.
"We're disappointed," Bull said. "But we've had a great year. We have nothing to hang our head about. Central Catholic won titles at all three levels. They're 35-1. That's a pretty good basketball program."
Haaydn Martinez paced Ceres High with a game-high 15 points during the rematch.
Ismael Ontiveros, Nick Jones, Elijah Niblett and Adrian Espinoza tallied 12, eight, six and two points, respectively.
Chris Ebster scored a team-high 14 points for the Raiders.
Montel Bland and Daron Bland had 10 and nine points, respectively.
Wyatt Ogden and Cole Petlansky both tallied five points.
Caleb Hazelwood and Jacob Schali contributed two points each.
Both teams struggled from the free-throw line.
Ceres High shot 57 percent (12 of 21).
Central Catholic shot 48 percent (13 of 27).
"It's been a problem for us all year," Bull said.
Down by four points, Ebster and Ogden hit back-to-back 3-pointers to give the Raiders a 43-41 lead.
Tied at 43-all, the Bulldogs committed three turnovers while failing to make a basket during the final 2:04.
Jones, Ceres High's top post player, fouled out with five minutes to play.
"We got good looks but couldn't score," Bull said. "We had no inside presence. We still had a chance. They played a little better at the end."
A 20-10 run by the Bulldogs turned a 27-21 deficit into a 41-37 lead in the second half. Ceres High scored seven straight points.
"It was a like a heavyweight fight," Bull said. "They got up early. We made adjustments at halftime. I really thought we were going to win when we made the run. It was a great game; one of the best we've played all year."
Ceres High trailed 22-11 at the 2:26 mark of the second quarter.
The Bulldogs battled back on the strength of a 10-5 run.
Martinez buried a 3-pointer and Ontiveros converted two of three foul shots as Ceres High closed the gap to 27-21 at the end of the first half.
"We're a finesse team," Bull said. "But we played physical today because we had to. There was a lot of pressure on us. We haven't lost in league at home all year. I'm never happy after a loss. Bottom line, we had a great year."
Thrilling season finale
Central Valley and Patterson needed an additional four minutes to determine the winner of last week's Western Athletic Conference freshman boys basketball finale.
The Hawks edged out the Tigers 64-62 in overtime on Feb. 17 in Ceres.
"It was a fun game to watch," Central Valley head coach Carlos Maldonado said.
Harinder Sidhu led the Hawks with 16 points.
Jonathan Barragan tallied 12 points.
Aondray Peoples had 11 points.
Rodney Stahl, Jaspreet Singh, Oso Fregoso, Wilbert Soriano and Ralph Afortunado scored eight, six, five, four and two points, respectively.
Central Valley led 32-29 at the break.
The Hawks outscored the Tigers 21-10 in the first quarter.
Patterson battled back with a 19-11 run in the second period.
Central Valley held a slim 45-44 lead at the end of the third quarter.
On the verge of losing, Sidhu caught an inbounds pass and drilled a 25-foot shot near the Hawks' bench at the buzzer to force overtime.
"You couldn't have scripted it any better than that," Maldonado said. "It was unbelievable. It went straight through. It was meant to be. That's a memory he'll cherish for the rest of his life. It couldn't have happened to a better kid."
Central Valley and Patterson tied for third place in the Western Athletic Conference standings (7-5).
The Hawks compiled a 1-1 record against Patterson.
Central Valley lost twice to first-place Central Catholic (12-0) and second-place Ceres High (10-2).
"The kids learned a lot," Maldonado said.
Maldonado officiated prep basketball for 25 years prior to deciding to become a coach.
Carlos Jr. was his assistant coach.
"Working next to my son was priceless," Carlos Sr. said.