By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Lady Dawgs end four-year drought against Spartans
Placeholder Image
The interview took place in a dim hallway. Ceres High varsity girls basketball coach Shawna Nunes munched on a piece of pizza as she talked about the importance of Saturday's 45-39 victory against Modesto Metro Conference rival Grace Davis at Ceres' Phil de la Porte Gymnasium. The Spartans won the previous 10 meetings.

“It was a must-win game,” Nunes said. “If we lose, we drop to third place, and have to claw our way back. This was also a victory for morale in the sense we haven't beat them in four years.”

Added Ceres High senior guard Jessica Mazza: “Our whole team wanted it.”

The Bulldogs (12-3) moved into a first-place tie atop the MMC standings at 4-1 with Grace Davis (11-4) and Beyer (11-3).

Ceres High's starting lineup, which features Mazza, Heather Jones, Jennifer Arnold, Kristen McClure and Jordan Nash, combined for 41 points against the Spartans. Jones led the Bulldogs with 17 points. Mazza, Arnold and McClure tallied 11, nine and four points, respectively. Arnold buried three 3-pointers.

Grace Davis' starters, including Angel Blanco, Maria Sanchez, Erin Ovalle, Meghan Devlin and Heather Rahmam, totaled 37 points. Blanco and Sanchez had 10 points apiece. Ovalle, Devlin and Raham added eight, six and three points, respectively.

“Every kid did what we asked them to do tonight outside of free throws,” Nunes said. “That's why we won.”

Added Mazza: “It was a team win for sure.”

The Bulldogs finished off the Spartans with a 10-2 run in the final 2 minutes, 50 seconds of the fourth quarter.

Mazza had six points. She burieda 7-foot jump shot from the left baseline. Mazza also converted four of six free throws. McClure scored inside. Jones drained a 10-footer.

Ceres also forced three turnovers.

“Our defense was what won it for us,” Mazza said. “Our full-court pressure bugged them. Homecourt was important too. The crowd got us pumped up. It was awesome.”

“Defensively, we played well tonight,” Nunes said. “Every player that went in gave 110 percent.”

Grace Davis extended its lead to 33-30 in the third quarter. Down 28-26, the Spartans accounted for seven of the final nine points.

Vanessa Munoz made a layup. Blanco scored inside off an offensive rebound. Devlin converted a three-point play. She banked in a shot from the free-throw line as she was fouled. Devlin hit the foul shot.

Each team scored 10 points in the first quarter.

The Spartans opened the game with an 8-0 run.

Blanco scored inside twice off offensive rebounds. Raham drained a 3-pointer from the right baseline. Devlin converted a free throw.

The Bulldogs responded with a 10-2 run in the final 3:47. Arnold buried back-to-back 3-pointers. Jones made a layup and both of her foul shots.

“It took us the whole quarter to settle down and start playing,” Nunes said.

Added Mazza: “I was overexcited. I was trying to make too much happen.”

There was one tie and four lead changes in the second quarter.

Ceres High scored six straight points to take a 17-14 lead with 4:15 remaining. Erica Arellano knocked down a close-range shot. Jones hit two of three free throws. Mazza made a 15-footer from the right elbow.

Grace Davis scored six straight points to take a 20-17 lead with 1:08 remaining. Ovalle buried a 3-pointer from the right wing and a close-range shot in the key. Devlin made one of three free throws.

Mazza's foul shot pulled the Bulldogs within one, 20-18, with 6.1 seconds remaining in the first half.

Ceres High shot 25 percent (13-for-53) from the field and 48 percent (16-for-33) from the free-throw line for the game.

Grace Davis shot 37 percent (15-for-41) from the floor and 31 percent (5-for-16) from the charity stripe.

Several Spartans cried after the game, including Ovalle and Devlin. Nunes comforted Erin. Her father, Joe, coaches Grace Davis. Shawna and Joe coached together for four years at Ceres High.

“You never want to lose to your friends,” Nunes said.

Ceres High will play at Grace Davis on Jan. 31 and Feb. 16.

“Davis has a good team,” Nunes said. “It's going to be tough at their place.” - By DALE BUTLER / Staff reporter of the Ceres (Calif.) Courier