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Playoff streaks end
The CIF Sac-Joaquin Section released its playoff brackets for boys and girls basketball on its web site on Feb. 17.

For the first time in 14 years, Ceres High's girls basketball program failed to earn a postseason berth.

The Bulldogs also endured their first losing campaign during Shawna Nunes' tenure.

"We knew we were going to have a difficult time," she said. "We had such a young team."

Ceres High's youth-laden squad featured 11 players, including three freshmen (Lilibeth Jaimes, Stephanie Yankovich and Jamie Beck) and two sophomores (Jode Johnson and Amy Raymond). Juniors Brittany Lusk, Aimee Gunzenhauser and Tiffany Burnett, and seniors Kaylee Brown, Breann Lomeli and Cassie Rayford rounded out the Bulldogs' roster.

"This year was about building a team," said Lusk, Ceres High's standout point guard. "We weren't very consistent."

The Bulldogs closed out the 2007-08 season with a 31-30 win over crosstown rival and visiting Central Valley on Feb. 14. The victory helped 9-16 Ceres High secure a tie for fourth place with Weston Ranch in the VOL standings (5-9).

"We didn't even talk about it (playoffs) all this year," Nunes said. "Next year, we will. We'll start a new streak."

The Bulldogs could return as many as eight players in 2008-09, including starters Lusk, Johnson and Jaimes. Yankovich, Beck, Gunzenhauser and Raymond all logged valuable playing time.

The Ceres High varsity boys basketball program's streak of two straight postseason appearances ended due to a shocking collapse.

The Bulldogs lost five of their final seven league games following a 5-2 start

"We were really inconsistent," Ceres High head coach Jason Martin said.

Intra-city rival Central Valley eliminated Ceres High from playoff contention on the final day of the regular season. The Hawks avenged a 41-point loss with a 56-48 victory over the Bulldogs on Feb. 15.

"We would have moved up to No. 13 with a win over Central Valley," Martin said.

The shocking defeat dropped Ceres High from No. 14 to 17 in the power ratings. The top 16 teams advanced to the playoffs.

River City and Livingston were awarded the final two postseason berths. Both schools closed out their conference schedules with victories. They also received forfeit wins against Bear Creek. Bear Creek forfeited 18 victories for using an academically ineligible player.

"I'm shocked," Ceres High senior standout Brett Sayad said minutes after learning of the Bulldogs' fate. "I figured Manteca's loss would get us in."

"At least two other times we missed it (playoffs) by one game," Martin said. "My first year here, we were 19-9 and didn't get in."

Ceres High finished 14-13 overall, 7-7 in conference play (three-way tie for third with Manteca and Sonora) in 2007-08.

The Bulldogs will lose two of their 12 players to graduation, including team MVP Sayad. The 6-foot-7 forward-guard ranked third in the Stanislaus District in scoring behind Modesto Christian's Reeves Nelson and Merced's Allen Huddleston with an average of 22 points per game.

Sayad plans to join former high school and AAU teammates Kevin Dupree and Andrew Chipponeri at Modesto JC.

The Bulldogs will be led by point guard Marcus Hilgen and forward-center Lance Hunter next season. Guards Martino Bertolotti and Justin Canatsy, and forward-guard Tony Bradford will also contribute.