The Pirates' men's basketball team extended the host College of the Sequoias Giants before falling in overtime, 78-73 Saturday in the semifinals of the Kirby Mannon Pepsi / Wyndham Hotel Tournament in Visalia. Jacob Alonzo continued his stellar play for VC (10-5) with 27 points, four assists and three rebounds while Lamont Landers netted 13 points, including a game-tying bucket with three seconds remaining to send the game into the extra period. Darrell Handy-Johnson had 10 points and five rebounds.
Both teams struggled to find the offensive touch early with Darrell H-J hitting a shot to tie the score at 7-7 eight minutes into the game. After a COS three, Darrell H-J scored on a dunk and a short jumper to give the Pirates their first lead of the game, 11-10, with 10:10 remaining in the first half.
The Giants opened up a 20-12 lead at the 6:41 mark before back-to-back triples from John Williams and Alonzo began to narrow the gap. After two charity tosses from Sequoias, Terrell Handy-Johnson connected for a deuce, and Alonzo scored another bucket to pull Ventura to within 24-22 with 3:33 remaining. VC trailed at halftime 31-26.
The teams traded mini-runs long into the second half of play. The Pirates started with a pair of buckets by Malcolm Ruff, by the Giants responded in kind. COS extended their advantage to 43-34 at the 13:23 mark when Terrell H-J, Alonzo and Landers scored on consecutive possessions to narrow the gap to three. A minute later, Alonzo connected from range and it was a new ball game with the score tied 43-43.
Wit the score tied at 47-47, Alonzo and Isaac Ramirez hit back-to-back treys to give the Pirates their biggest lead of the game with 8:21 remaining. Landers hit a lay-up to put VC ahead 57-54 at the 5:20 mark, but Ventura could not hold on to the advantage. Sequoias scored the next five points to go ahead by two, but a Landers lay-up with 1:58 on the clock tied the score at 59-59. A minute later, the Giants hit a pair of free throws, setting up Landers' game-tying bucket in the final seconds of regulation play.
In the overtime period, Alonzo hit a pair of free throws to give Ventura a 65-64 edge with 3:38 remaining, but COS scored the next two field goals to take command down the stretch. The Pirates kept the game close throughout the final minutes, but could not get over the hump against the tournament hosts.
Ventura moves to the third-place game of the bracket Sunday Dec. 17, playing Cerritos at 2:00 pm in Visalia.