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Youth-laden Bulldogs exceed coach’s expectations
• CHS girls qualify for playoffs for the first time since 2012-13
Ceres High’s girls basketball team feb 28 2024
Ceres High’s girls basketball team compiled a 21-8 overall record, finished second in the WAC standings and participated in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division-II playoffs this season. - photo by Contributed to the Courier

Ceres High’s girls basketball team accomplished a lot this season.

The Bulldogs tripled their win total from the previous year, climbed from sixth to second in the Western Athletic Conference standings and secured their first playoff berth since 2012-13.

“They definitely exceeded my expectations,” said Ceres High second-year head coach Megan McGill. “I’m really proud of them.”

Ceres High won one of two games in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division-II playoff bracket last week.

The 15th-seeded Bulldogs pulled away for a 45-27 win over 18th-seeded Cordova Lancers in a Play-In Game on Feb. 12 at Phil de la Porte Gymnasium.

“I was expecting them to play that way,” McGill said. “We were undefeated in league at home so we felt confident going into the game.”

Ceres High also had plenty of motivation heading into the must-win game against Cordova, which posted a 14-14 overall record and finished second in the Greater Sacramento standings at 9-3 during the regular season.

“We were a little frustrated we had to do a Play-In Game. We thought with our winning record of 20-7, we’d be ranked higher than No. 15. We made a statement. We’re playoff team. We showed people we deserved to be there. We’re not the team from last year.”

Marissa Renteria led the Bulldogs with 13 points, eight steals, six rebounds and two assists.

Sovannary Carter added 11 points, four rebounds and two blocks.

Makaela Brown totaled seven points, two rebounds, two steals and one assist while making her varsity debut.

Arrayah Stallworth collected five points, 10 rebounds, two steals, one assist and one block.

Mariah Renteria had five points and four rebounds.

Hailey Tsurui had two points and two rebounds.

Savannah Leifried had four rebounds, one assist and one steal.

Visiting Ceres High lost 75-32 to second-seeded Vanden in the first round of the playoffs on Feb. 14.

The Vikings snapped the Bulldogs’ eight-game unbeaten streak.

“Vanden is a really good team. We didn’t back down. We kept battling. In the first quarter, we did things well. We got within four points.”

Ceres High posted a 21-8 overall and finished second in the WAC standings with an 11-3 mark this winter.

The Bulldogs went 6-20 and placed sixth in conference play (3-11) during the 2022-23 school year.

“I knew we had the talent to win more games. They tripled their win total from last year and moved up to second place in the WAC. They accomplished so much.”

Ceres High will lose five players to graduation, including Marissa Renteria, Makenna Azavedo, Valeria Arroyo, Gaby Rebello and Mireya Estrada.

Renteria started.

She averaged 14.8 points, 5.0 rebounds, 5.0 steals and 1.7 assists per game.

“Obviously, we’re losing a lot. They did so much more than being leaders on the floor. They were always willing to give rides and advice to their teammates.”

The Bulldogs have a bright future as Stallworth, Carter, Tsurui, Leifried, Mariah Renteria and Jolissa Guillory will return to the team in 2024-25.

Stallworth averaged 10.1 points, 9.8 rebounds, 2.0 blocks and 1.6 steals per game.

Carter averaged 8.9 points and 6.0 rebounds.

Leifried averaged 5.0 points, 4.7 rebounds and 1.3 steals.

Tsurui averaged 4.7 points and 1.8 rebounds.

“They (Stallworth and Carter) contributed a lot as sophomores. I’m excited to see what they do as juniors.”