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Third-quarter push helps Sierra get by Ceres
Sierra High’s Alysia Atkins tries to drive past Bryce Ford of Ceres in Thursday’s non-league contest. - photo by Photo by WAYNE THALLANDER
The Sierra High girls varsity basketball squad closed out non-league play Thursday with a 38-26 win over visiting Ceres.

The Timberwolves needed a third-period 12-3 run highlighted by a steal and drive by Stephanie Vanni and 3-pointer by Michelle Arroyo.

But it was Alysia Atkins who did the most damage. She had a game-high 13 points coupled with 12 rebounds and six steals.

Sierra (9-3) will travel to Sonora for Tuesday’s Valley Oak League opener.

“As a team, you can never be comfortable going into league,” Timberwolves coach Stephan Unterholzner said. “The VOL is so competitive.”

Sierra led 9-3 from the outset without its offense really getting untracked. Jordan Johnson and Atkins connected on free throws, with Arroyo kicking the game off with a trey.

For the most part, Ceres (2-7) stayed within striking distance during the first half thanks to Jessica Ellsworth’s shooting from beyond the arc.

Nursing a 14-10 lead at the break, the Timberwolves opened the third period by scoring three straight baskets. An Arroyo 3 and a pair of buckets by Jordan put Sierra comfortably in the driver’s seat.

Behind 31-15 midway in the fourth, Ceres only had enough left offensively to close the gap to within 10.

“It was an ugly game,” Unterholzner said, indicating that neither team looked particularly sharp.

Bryce Ford led the Bulldogs with 11 points while Ellsworth chipped in with eight.

Besides Atkins, Johnson netted eight and Vanni and Arroyo both chipped in with six.

Sierra had a 36-15 rebounding edge, including 20 on the offensive end. Johnson and Lia Unterholzner both had eight boards while Shelby Shirron hauled in six.

Sierra 36, Ceres 19
Celine Barber and Valerie Nester combined for enough offense to outscore the entire Bulldogs squad.

Barber had a game-high 14 points to go along with her three steals in the non-league affair. Nester finished with 12 points and 15 rebounds.

Sierra (4-4) also received a solid effort from Asia Cortez, who chipped in with six points and six boards.