Jacob Alonzo was the hero. With three seconds left he cashed in a John Williams assist for three, giving the Pirates' men's basketball team an 83-82 lead over top-ranked and undefeated San Bernardino Valley. But in the ensuing chaos, the Wolverines connected on a home run pass 90 feet down the floor for a lay-up, breaking the Pirates' collective hearts in a difficult 84-83 loss in the semifinals of the Gregg Anderson Memorial Tournament at Antelope Valley College. Darrell Handy-Johnson led the Pirates with 25 points on 7-8 shooting from the floor and an 11-15 performance at the free throw line.
The Pirates, winners of seven straight coming into Saturday's contest, jumped on the Wolverines early, opening up a 5-0 lead on Malcolm Ruff's lay-up off a Jacob Alonzo pass, and Alonzo's made 3-pointer, both in the opening minute. The advantage stretched to 13-5 on Darrell H-J's jumper at the 16:19 mark of the first half. San Bernardino Valley came back, however, and went on a 21-6 run over the next six minutes to take a 26-19 lead halfway through the period. SBVC continued to build their lead, extending it to 13 points, 48-35, at halftime.
Ventura began its comeback early in the second half. They went on an 8-1 run over the first 2:28 of play to close to within six points. Ruff opened with a lay-up and followed that up making one of two free throws. Alonzo countered a Wolverine free throw with a bucket and an Isiah Reyes hit a charity toss. Darrell H-J hit another lay-up with 17:32 on the clock to make the score 49-43.
Alonzo hit from range at the 14:14 mark to pull VC to within four, 53-49. The score remained within four to eight points for the next three minutes when Reyes' charity toss reduced the margin to three points, 60-57, with 11:57 left to play. The Pirates continued to battle back, despite San Bernardino's best effort to hold them off. Two free shots by Williams made it a two-point game, 71-69, with 6:14 on the clock, and Ruff tied the game on the next possession with a lay-up. SBVC re-opened a four point advantage, but Alonzo's 3-point play at the 3:03 mark closed the gap to one, 77-76. After the Wolverines scored four straight points, Alonzo hit from range, and Darrell H-J's lay-up reduced the margin to 82-80 with 1:33 remaining. Both teams misfired on scoring chances in the final 90 seconds before Alonzo's apparent heroics and SBVC's 90-foot pass and score in the closing seconds.
Alonzo added 17 points and a team-high four rebounds along with three steals. Reyes handed out four dimes in the game. Ruff finished with 10 points and three boards.
Ventura moves to the third place game in the tournament against the host Antelope Valley College Marauders. Tip-off is scheduled for 3:00 pm in Lancaster.