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Playing for a purpose
Ceres High's varsity girls basketball team started a new tradition last week.

As part of the Women's Basketball Coaches Association's global initiative aimed at raising breast cancer awareness, Bulldog players wore pink uniforms during their Valley Oak League game against visiting Weston Ranch on Tuesday, Feb. 17.

"That's all we were talking about today at school," Ceres High senior point guard Aimee Gunzenhauser said. "It was really exciting to do something different. We had a lot to play for tonight. It wasn't just basketball."

Competing in front of several hundred pink-clad home fans, the Bulldogs turned in a dominant effort.

Ceres High outscored Weston Ranch 25-9 in the third quarter en route to a 62-42 victory.

Gunzenhauser poured in 16 of her 18 points in the second half and grabbed 17 rebounds.

Junior forward-guard Jode Johnson scored 10 of her game-high 26 points in the first quarter to go along with nine rebounds.

Sophomore center Jamie Beck added 14 points and 17 boards.

"It was an honor to play in this game," Aimee said. "We really took it serious. We were doing it for (assistant coach) Phil de la Porte's wife and the community."

Gunzenhauser and her 10 teammates donned pink in memory of Sandy, who passed away in 2005 with breast cancer.

Julio Marquez, a 1998 Ceres High grad and family friend, donated the uniforms. He was also the person that recommended taking part in the WBCA Pink Zone campaign.

Marquez came up with the idea a year ago at this time while watching an NCAA women's basketball game with Phil. Rutgers players sported pink uniforms during its showdown with Tennessee.

"She (Sandy) helped me get into UC Davis," Julio said. "She'd come up and watch me pitch."

Ceres High head coach Shawna Nunes and home economics teacher Lori Konschak organized the event.

"We want to make it an annual thing," Phil said.

More than 1,250 schools and organizations participated in the 2009 WBCA Pink Zone initiative. Last year, the global campaign reached over 830,000 fans and raised over $930,000 for breast cancer awareness and research.

For Gunzenhauser, the Ceres High-Weston Ranch contest also marked the final time she'll play on her home court.

"I've practically lived in this gym for my four years of high school," she said. "It's sad just knowing that all the memories I've made here are in my past."