After a trying 10 days for everyone in the Ventura community due to the Thomas Fire, the Pirates' men's basketball team returned to the court on Friday, holding on to defeat Pasadena City College 54-49 in the opening round of the Kirby Manon Pepsi / Wyndham Hotel Tournament at the College of the Sequoais in Visalia. Jacob Alonzo scored 15 points with six steals and three assists while Darrell Handy-Johnson and Malcolm Ruff each netted 10 points in the win for Ventura (10-4).
The Pirates got off to a fast start as Alonzo nailed consecutive 3-pointers on VC's first two possessions of the game. Darrell H-J followed with a pair of free throws and Ventura led 8-0 with 17:41 still remaining in the first half. The Lancers came back and held a 13-12 advantage when Isaac Ramirez converted from range, and Lamont Landers hit a pair of charity tosses for a 17-13 Pirate edge. Pasadena came back to take a 22-21 lead in the see-saw affair. PCC expanded their lead to six points, 29-23 with 3:22 on the clock, before and Alonzo triple and a Ruff deuce brought the Pirates back. Ventura trailed at halftime 31-28.
Ventura stormed back to start the second half, racing out on a 10-2 run over the first six minutes of play. John Williams got things started with a jumper off an Alonzo assist, then Ruff answered a PCC bucket with a pair of free shots. Ruff then gave the Pirates a 34-33 lead with a dunk at the 17:00 mark, and Darrell H-J hit one of two foul shots a minute later. Stephen Ntui connected from close range,and Darrell H-J made two free throws to put VC ahead 39-33 with 14:09 remaining in the game.
The lancers had one more run left in them as they rebounded to take a 44-40 advantage with 8:52 remaining. Back-to-back triples by Ramirez and Alonzo gave Ventura the lead for good, and Darrell-H-J's dunk made it 48-44 with just over five minutes left to play. Pasadena answered with a 3-pointer with 4:45 oin the clock to narrow the margin to one point, but Ramirez countered with another trey to build the lead back to four points, 51-47. The score remained for the next two minutes before the Lancers closed to within two with a pair of free throws, by Alonzo iced the game with three free shots in the final minute for the 54-49 Pirate victory.
Darrell H-J led Ventura with nine rebounds while snaring three steals, and Williams pulled down seven boards. Ntui grabbed six caroms and handed out three dimes.Ramirez totaled nine points with three 3-pointers.
The Pirates move into the tournament's semifinals Saturday Dec. 16. They will play the host College of the Sequoias at 7:00 pm.