CERES — If you believe the scouting reports, Ceres High's boys' basketball team is a scrappy bunch that doesn't shoot particularly well and can be hurt by the press.
Thursday night, the only truth in the above statement was that the Bulldogs were scrappy.
Ceres was barely fazed by the Weston Ranch press and six different players combined to drill nine 3-pointers as the Bulldogs claimed a 68-58 victory, handing the Cougars their first Valley Oak League loss.
"That makes us real tough to beat," said junior guard John Dhillon of his team's long-range game. "Because if everybody is scoring, it's a good day. Usually, we're not like that."
The Bulldogs broke a three-game slide and improved to 2-3 in the VOL and 8-8 overall. Weston Ranch, which last week stunned league favorite Manteca, fell to 3-1 and 7-8.
Ceres led wire-to-wire, scoring the game's first eight points, and opened leads as large as 23 points in the final nine minutes. The Cougars owned the fourth quarter, dictating the pace of the game through defensive pressure, but never really had enough time to erase the Bulldogs' lead.
Had Weston Ranch played the entire game with the intensity it brought to the fourth quarter, the outcome might have been different. But such are the mysteries of coaching high school kids.
"I didn't think we were playing with enough energy to press," said Cougars' coach Ryan Bono. "We weren't being effective with it, so they were getting open shots and hitting them in the first half. In the second half, we went back in it, and then all of the sudden we played with energy and made a run."
Ceres' best quarter was the third, a time in which it should have been vulnerable. The Cougars, down 36-25 at halftime, needed a quick start to climb back into the game.
Instead, the Bulldogs were patient on offense, winging the ball around the perimeter, and got four 3 pointers from four different players to take command. Three of them came on consecutive possessions, accounting for all the points in a 9-0 run to a 47-27 lead with 6:05 left in the third quarter.
"We've not shot the ball well the last three games," said Ceres coach Brian de la Porte. "I've felt we'd played good enough defense to win, but we needed this, being on a three-game slide."
Nathan Moises led Weston Ranch with 18 points, but the Cougars were missing sixth man and third-leading scorer Charray Poole, who turned an ankle in Tuesday's game.
Dhillon led Ceres with 18 points and had two 3-pointers, as did Justin Canatsy, who finished with 12 points.
With three conference losses this early, the Bulldogs probably won't be contending for a VOL crown. But if Ceres can maintain an outside game, the playoffs are within reach.
"We're still in there for the playoffs, and that's our goal now," de la Porte said. "We think we're a good team and if we hit some shots we can play with anybody."
Bee staff writer Brian VanderBeek can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2300.