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Revisiting the past
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Heather Mazza wrapped up her basketball career at Bethany University in February.

Her fondest memories on the hardwood occurred when she suited up for the Bulldogs at the high school level from 2002-05.

The Ceres High graduate will always remember her team's battles with Ashley Walker and the Grace Davis Spartans.

Walker, a standout at Cal for four years, got picked 12th overall by the Seattle Storm in the 2009 WNBA Draft in April.

"That prepared us for sections," Mazza said before officiating during the CHS Summer Basketball League.

Ceres High overcame a 14-point deficit en route to posting a 57-46 win over Vacaville in the 2004-05 Sac-Joaquin Section Division II title game at Arco Arena.

Mazza and the Bulldogs lost three times to the Spartans during the regular season. Top-seeded Grace Davis fell 52-50 to No. 8 Fairfield in the second round of the Division I tournament.

"Even to this day, we (former Ceres High players) mention Davis, and roll our eyes," Heather said. "It would have been so nice to beat them."

Said Bulldogs head coach Shawna Nunes: "That was our No. 1 enemy."

Ceres High compiled an 0-11 record against the Spartans during Mazza's four-year varsity career.

The Bulldogs finished second in league behind Grace Davis three times (2003-2005).

Ceres High had trouble guarding Walker, a 6-foot-1 forward-center. Ashley was also a force on defense.

"She was just so much bigger and stronger than us," Mazza said. "She had huge elbows and her ponytail would smack us in our faces."

"We would have been more dominant if she wasn't around," said Nunes, whose resume includes winning one section title, six league championships, at least 20 games 10 times and 30-plus contests twice. "She was taller, wider and stronger. She made her teammates better. She also had an advantage that she played high-level travel ball during the summertime. You couldn't dislike her because she was a nice kid."

It didn't take long for Walker to frustrate Ceres High players, coaches and fans.

Ashley poured in a game-high 28 points as the Spartans edged the Bulldogs 49-40 in overtime at the Ceres High tournament. Walker, who was a freshman at the time, made a 3-pointer with five seconds left in regulation to force the extra period.

"It was heart-breaking," Mazza said.

For four seasons, the Bulldogs and Spartans battled in front of large crowds. Led by Walker, Grace Davis never tasted defeat. Mazza and Ceres High learned from that experience and were rewarded in the 2005 postseason.

"That noise, intensity level and pressure prepared us for playoffs," Nunes said. "It was high-level competition. We may have never beaten Davis but we won a section title."