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Weston Ranch cant stop Ceres
Nate Moises goes to the basket hard during first-half action of Weston Ranch’s VOL loss to Ceres High Friday.
WESTON RANCH – Weston Ranch had minimal success early on offensively, struggled down the stretch defensively, yet with less than a minute to play the Cougars were still in position to win the game. That would not be the case as the Ceres Bulldogs played a splendid fourth quarter for a 63-58 Valley Oak League win Friday.

The Cougars (8-3 VOL, 12-10 overall) had ample opportunities to finish the season with a one-one league split with Ceres (5-7, 11-12), but each time they found themselves within striking distance, the Bulldogs found a way to keep their advantage.

“What killed us tonight was the offensive rebounds,” Weston Ranch head coach Ryan Bono said. “We would force them into tough shots and Ceres just dominated us on the offensive boards.

“We continued to give them second chances and it hurt.”

Ceres opened the game with a great deal of success, finding an offensive balance with perimeter shooting from Mark Schwark and John Dillon, coupled with strong inside play from senior Lance Hunter.

The Bulldogs jumped to a 19- 10 lead, but a jumper from Marcus Wood followed by a three-point-play from Ronnie Collins and a Nate Moises jumper and Weston Ranch was right back in it, trailing by a single point to open the second.

Ceres became more effective with each possession of the second quarter, giving a glimpse of things to come when senior Justin Canatsy nailed a 3-pointer as time expired in the first half. Canatsy would prove to be the difference, scoring nine of his game-high 16 points in the decisive fourth quarter.

“Ceres really came in here and hit some big shots,” Bono said. “In the second half, we had a spark; battled back and every time we would make a move, they would hit a big shot.

“Whenever we needed that big stop we couldn’t get it.”

The Cougars kept it within reach the entire contest, but never held the lead over the final 16 minutes of play. Griffin Alexander dropped a 3-pointer with 40.7 seconds in the game, cutting Ceres’ lead to 56-59. A turnover off of an errant pass the following possession would be the final chapter in back-to-back Cougar losses.

The journey will not become any easier for Weston Ranch, as it is scheduled to battle with the Manteca Buffaloes at 7 p.m. in Stockton. The Cougars cannot afford to let this loss linger, leaving a big question as to how soon the team will be able to respond.

“I sure hope so,” Bono said of the likeliness of his team bouncing back. “I told them like I have all year, at midnight it’s over and whether or not it’s a good or bad thing, when you fall off the horse you have to get right back on.

“We have to come out ready to play tomorrow and I think we’ll be ready.”

Jason Steele led the Cougars with 14 points and Woods finished with 11. Alexander chipped in with nine.