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Mazza having a stellar year at Ceres High
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Before the 2004-05 season started, Heather Mazza talked about what her team hoped to accomplish.

The Ceres High varsity girls basketball squad didn't win the Modesto Metro Conference title but did secure a berth in the playoffs for the 12th-consecutive year under coach Shawna Nunes' guidance.

Mazza was a major contributor. The senior point guard averaged 11.6 points, 6.3 assists and 5.1 rebounds per game. She averaged just 4.6 points, 3.9 assists and 2.1 rebounds as a junior.

"She exploded this year," Nunes said.

Mazza wasn't always a leader.

She was a role player for the past three seasons at the varsity level. Her job: pass the ball, rebound and play defense.

"From the time she was a freshman, we began grooming her for the leadership role," Nunes said. "This year, she stepped in and took over that lead role. She's done a great job for us."

Added Mazza: "I thought this year Krystle (Brown) and Jennifer (Arnold) would be the scorers and I would be the distributor. I found out this summer ( I was going to be a leader)."

Mazza shined at a tournament in Hawaii. She led the Bulldogs in scoring when Brown got into foul trouble.

"They told me to keep shooting," she said.

Mazza has done just as well as Quantelle Daniels, a four-year starter, who led Ceres to a second-place finish in league at 10-3, 21-8 overall record and into the playoffs in 2003-04. Daniels averaged 12 points, four rebounds and three assists per game during her senior year.

"She (Heather) didn't have to do what she is doing now because we had Quantelle," Nunes said. "She's not as quick as Quantelle but she has learned to use her abilities to her advantage."

Mazza developed into a complete player through hard work and determination. This past summer, Mazza played in three-on-three games with guys in Hughson in an effort to improve her game.

"She's one of the hardest working kids I have seen," Nunes said. "If there's a move she wants to learn, she's going to do it over and over again until she does it right."

Added Mazza: "Going against Quantelle in practice for three years definitely made me a better player."

Mazza also praised assistant coach Phil de la Porte.

"Every Sunday, he opens up the gym and we work on our jump shots," she said.

Mazza has great court vision and supreme ball-handling skills. She can score in a variety of ways, whether it's from the inside or outside. She's an excellent free-throw shooter. But most importantly, Mazza is unselfish.

"She hasn't missed a practice or game in four years," Nunes said.

Added Mazza: "I just want to win so bad. I don't care if I score."

Said Daniels: "She's improved so much. She's a very complete player. I really like watching her play."

Mazza concluded the regular season with back-to-back, 20-plus point performances. She had 24 points in a 78-56 loss to the Davis Spartans, the top team in the MMC. She scored 22 points in a 50-28 win over the Downey Knights.

"Ceres has always had a player (waiting in the wings) like the Donnellys, Smileys, Brotherns and Daniels," said Davis coach Ted Bergerson.

As a kid growing up in Ceres, Mazza admired Shannon Donnelly and Reshundra Smiley. Donnelly and Smiley led the Bulldogs to a second-place finish in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II playoffs in 1998-99. They also helped Ceres secure a berth in the NorCal playoff tournament.

Donnelly just returned home from playing professional basketball overseas in Norway. She starred at Cal State Stanislaus for four years, where she shattered just about every team record and had her jersey retired.

Smiley is a member of the Marshall University women's basketball team. The junior guard is a key reserve.

This fall, Mazza will play basketball at Bethany Christian College, which is located in Santa Cruz. The Bruins are members of the California Pacific Conference, which is one of the largest Division II leagues in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA).

Mazza has already worked out with some of her future teammates.

"She played in pickup games at their gym between her junior and senior year," Nunes said. "She stood out to him (Bethany coach Dan Mooney) at that point."

Mazza will continue to be successful as long as she remains dedicated to the sport.

"She's the only person that will limit herself," Nunes said. - By DALE BUTLER / Staff Reporter of The Ceres (Calif.) Courier