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Varsity Bulldogs drop league opener
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The Ceres High varsity boys basketball team played Modesto Metro Conference rival Modesto High evenly for 24 minutes. Then Sammy Yeager took over. The all-conference junior point guard scored 12 of his game-high 24 points in the fourth quarter to lead the Panthers past the Bulldogs 59-46 Wednesday night at Ceres' Phil de la Porte Gymnasium.

“It's not like we left him open,” Ceres High coach Jason Martin said. “He hit some NBA 3s with guys on him. That's what good players do. That's why he's the best player in the league.”

Added Bulldogs center/forward Kevin Dupree: “We should have won. We just fell apart. We couldn't hit any shots when it counted.”

Dupree led Ceres High with 16 points, including 10 in the third quarter. Brett Sayad and Steven Downs added nine and six points, respectively. Ross Tate and Bryant Hill had four points apiece. Andrew Chipponeri scored three points. Brad Muniz and Ray Green both tallied two points.

Modesto High's Blair Cephas and Deonte' Johnson contributed 14 and nine points, respectively.

“Kevin kept us in it by himself scoring and rebounding,” Martin said. “He also did a great job on their center (6-foot-10 Ryan Vermeulen).”

Dupree limited Vermeulen to just six points.

Ceres trailed by just two points, 40-38, with 5:47 remaining.

An 18-3 run in the span of 4:46 helped Modesto increase its lead to 17, 58-41, with 1:01 remaining.

Yeager scored 10 points. He made a 3-pointer, five of six free throws and a layup.

Johnson buried back-to-back jumpers inside the foul line.

Vermeulen scored inside off a pass from Yeager.

Cephas' layup capped the back-breaking run.

“The difference was making shots,” Martin said. “We had guys that didn't knock down shots. We had a lot of guys passing up shots.”

The Panther limited the Bulldogs to just 15 percent shooting (3-for-20) in the fourth quarter. Modesto shot 70 percent from the field (7-for-10) and 70 percent (7-for-10) from the free-throw line.

The Bulldogs built an 18-11 lead in the first quarter on 7 of 19 shooting. Downs had six points, including a hook shot, layup and two free throws. Dupree and Sayad both scored four points. Tate and Hill both added two points. Hill buried a fadeaway jumper from the right baseline at the buzzer.

The Panthers outscored the Bulldogs 13-6 in the second quarter on 6 of 11 shooting. Ceres shot just 19 percent (3-for-16) from the floor.

Johnson scored the first five points. He converted a three-point play and layup off a steal. His second basket cut the deficit to two, 18-16.

Muniz's putback and Tate's subsequent steal and layup gave the Bulldogs a 22-16 lead.

The Panthers evened the score at 22-all thanks in part to a 6-0 run. Modesto made three layups, including two by Yeager and one by Cephas. Cephas scored off an offensive rebound.

Dupree's offensive rebound and putback put Ceres ahead 24-22 with 1:07 left.

Cephas scored the game-tying basket off an offensive rebound just before the end of the first half.

“We should have scored 10 more points in the first half,” Martin said. “We missed some layups.”

Both teams built small leads in the third quarter. Ceres made 6 of 16 field goals (38 percent). Modesto made 6 of 15 field goals (40 percent).

A 6-2 run put the Bulldogs ahead by four, 30-26. Dupree converted two layups and a long-range jumper.

A 9-2 run put the Panthers ahead by three, 35-32.

Yeager hit a one-handed floater over several defenders from the middle of the key. He also nailed a 3-pointer from the left baseline.

Vermeulen banked in a hook shot.

Cephas made a layup.

Ceres outscored Modesto 6-4 in the final 2:34 to get within one, 37-36, heading into the final quarter. Green made a layup. Dupree hit a 16-footer at the 1:18 mark and 14-footer with less than two seconds remaining.

The Bulldogs and Panthers will meet two more times this season.

“We have the talent to beat Modesto,” Dupree said. “We just have to rebound and play defense.” - By DALE BUTLER / Staff reporter of the Ceres (Calif.) Courier