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Lady Dawgs earn bragging rights
With 29 seconds left in the Ceres High varsity girls basketball team's game against crosstown Valley Oak League rival Central Valley and the score tied at 30-all, Bulldogs sophomore Jode Johnson stepped to the free-throw line.

After missing her first attempt, one thought cross her mind.

"I better make the next one or coach (Phil de la Porte) is going to kill me. I was pretty nervous. I was shaking out there."

Johnson came through in the clutch and the Bulldogs held on for a 31-30 victory over the visiting Hawks in the season finale for both programs last Thursday.

"It feels good," Ceres High point guard Brittany Lusk said. "We made them hurt a little. That's what counts, right."

"I knew it was going to be a close game," Central Valley point guard Julie Calderon said. "We just didn't finish. That's what we needed."

Freshman Stephanie Yankovich tallied a team-high nine points for the Bulldogs, who finished in a tie for fourth place in the Valley Oak League standings with Weston Ranch at 5-9. Lusk, Johnson, Kaylee Brown and Amy Raymond added seven, six, four and three points, respectively. Aimee Gunzenhauser and freshman Jamie Beck chipped in one point each.

Calderon totaled a team-high nine points for the Hawks, who finished in last place in conference play (2-12). Marissa Cabusas and sophomore Phylicia Martinez had eight points apiece. Latrisha Jordan and freshman Alyssa Long added three and two points, respectively.

Ceres High trailed 12-8 at the end of the first quarter.

The Bulldogs outscored the Hawks 23-18 over the final 24 minutes, including 6-2 in the third quarter.

Johnson accounted for five of Ceres High's 11 second-half points. Central Valley managed to score just 10 points after intermission.

"We played a great defensive game," Bulldogs head coach Shawna Nunes said.

"I thought we'd do better," Calderon said. "Little things like turnovers added up to a lot in the end."

Central Valley had a chance to win the game at the end of regulation. Hounded by two Bulldog defenders, Calderon passed to teammate Whitney Richardson in the waning seconds. Her potential game-winner from near the foul line rimmed out as time expired.

Julie had hoped to play hero again.

"I wanted to take the last shot, but I knew it wasn't going to come to me," said Calderon, whose buzzer-beater propelled Central Valley to its first-ever league win on Jan. 22 at Manteca. "They had two players on me the whole game. I had to dish to someone else."

Added Johnson: "We knew if it wasn't in Julie's hands they wouldn't make it."