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The Ceres High varsity boys basketball team successfully defended its title by winning the 2007 Liberty Tournament crown last week in Brentwood.

Senior Brett Sayad totaled 21 of his 28 points after intermission and grabbed 11 rebounds during the Bulldogs' 68-59 triumph over Liberty for the championship on Saturday.

Juniors Marcus Hilgen, Martino Bertolotti, Tony Bradford and Balpreet Sandhu added 13, eight, six and four points, respectively. Senior Thomas Vanderlaan tallied four points. Sophomores Justin Canatsy and Lance Hunter contributed three and two points apiece.

"Brett had a big game. And the younger guys really stepped up," Ceres coach Jason Martin said.

The Bulldogs led by as many as 16 points in the second half. The Lions pulled within six in the fourth quarter.

The two teams combined to shoot 64 free throws. Ceres finished 23-for-33 from the charity stripe. Liberty converted 21 of 31 foul shots.

The Bulldogs beat Liberty, Freedom and Livermore on its way to compiling a 3-0 record at the tournament.

Ceres edged Freedom 61-59 in overtime on Friday.

Sayad led the Bulldogs in scoring with 18 points, including three treys. Vanderlaan, Hunter and Hilgen had 11, 10 and eight points, respectively. Canatsy and Bertolotti scored seven points each for Ceres, which turned a one-point deficit into a seven-point lead with its leading scorer on the bench. Sayad picked up his fourth foul in the third quarter and was sidelined for eight minutes.

The Bulldogs shot 59 percent (17 of 29) from the foul line. The Falcons shot 58 percent (7 of 12).

Ceres defeated Livermore 56-47 in the opening round on Thursday.

Three Bulldogs scored in double figures.

Sayad, Vanderlaan and Canatsy finished with 15, 12 and 11 points, respectively. Justin made three 3-pointers.

Bertolotti and Hilgen added nine and eight points, respectively. Hunter chipped in one point.

Ceres outscored Livermore 31-23 in the second half, including 18-11 in the final quarter.

The Bulldogs made 12 of 20 foul shots during the contest. The Cowboys converted 12 of 19 freebies.

Sayad, a 6-foot-6-inch forward/guard, earned tourney MVP honors for the second year in a row.

"He does what we ask of him and gets better every day," Martin said. "He just wants to win. He's not concerned with his numbers."

Ceres (6-3) entered the tournament with high expectations. But coach Martin didn't know how his team would respond following its disappointing 64-50 loss at Patterson High School on Dec. 3.

"After the game Monday, I didn't know what to expect," said Martin, whose team blew a 19-point against the Tigers. "We still got a long ways to go. Hopefully, we keep improving."