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Unfulfilled expectations
The Sac-Joaquin Section released its boys and girls basketball playoff brackets on Feb. 21.

Ceres High's and Central Valley's teams weren't invited to the party as they finished outside the top 16 in the Division III power ratings.

Ceres High's girls missed the playoffs for the second time in three years.

Led by senior all-everything Jode Johnson and junior center Jamie Beck, the Bulldogs compiled a 12-14 overall record and placed fifth in the Valley Oak League standings (8-8).

"We needed one more win to get in," head coach Shawna Nunes said.

Ceres High lost five games by six points or less this season.

The Bulldogs fell 45-44 to conference champion East Union (14-2), 44-41 to runner-up Sonora (11-5), 39-36 and 45-40 to fourth-place Oakdale (9-7), and 40-34 to Sierra (7-9).

East Union, Sonora and Oakdale secured postseason berths.

"We weren't able to capitalize on our strengths," Nunes said. "The point guards were very young and inexperienced. They had a steep learning curve. We averaged between 20-25 turnovers per game. That's collectively as an entire team. If we would have cut down our turnovers, we would have won those games."

The Bulldogs beat Central Valley, Sierra and Lathrop twice, and Weston Ranch (9-7) and Manteca (10-6) once. Third-place Manteca qualified for the postseason.

Central Valley's girls showed flashes of brilliance during the 2009-10 season.

The Hawks (7-20, 4-12) topped Sonora and Manteca once, and Lathrop twice in conference play.

Seventh-place Central Valley squandered leads of 17 and 14 points in losses to Oakdale and Weston Ranch.

"I've been second-guessing myself," said Central Valley head coach Jesse Padilla. "Maybe I was too easy on them."

The Hawks lose just three players to graduation, excluding Myra Naranjo, Alyssa Long, Valerie Olide, Vivien Fermil, Eva Noorzai and Lizette Covarrubias. Central Valley's frosh-soph team finished 12-4 in league play this past season.

Ceres High's boys fell one win shy of a .500 overall record (13-14) and finished in a tie for fourth place with Oakdale in the VOL standings (7-9).

The Bulldogs never established an inside presence after losing post player Beau Pimentel to a knee injury during the preseason.

"We got to lift a lot more weights," Ceres High head coach Brian de la Porte said. "That's the No. 1 priority in the offseason."

Ceres High's two biggest victories in league came against second-place Weston Ranch (11-5). Junior guard John Dhillon averaged 17.5 points against the Cougars.

The Bulldogs also swept Central Valley. Junior forward Tyler Cummings had 10 points during the second meet.

"His effort was unbelievable," de la Porte said.

Ceres High challenged Manteca (15-1), Sonora (11-5), Sierra (11-5) and East Union (8-9) before struggling down the stretch.

Manteca, Sonora and Sierra all secured playoff berths.

"We just didn't get the job done," de la Porte said. "Ultimately, it falls on my shoulders. There's no excuses. It is what it is."

Central Valley's junior-laden boys team struggled with consistency while posting a 4-23 record and taking sixth in league (2-14).

"It's a big disappointment," Hawks head coach Darryl Dickson said. "We felt this is the year we should have made the playoffs. We underachieved. It's a hard thing to say as a coach. Our team chemistry was a factor. We didn't have the communication we needed. It hurt us big time. Someone is going to have to take that leadership role. If we get that, we should be pretty competitive in the WAC."

Greg Mathews and David Griffin will be asked to shoulder the scoring load next year.

Central Valley and Ceres High will move from the VOL to the Western Athletic Conference in 2010-11.