The Pirates' men's basketball team was down, but certainly not out. They trailed visiting Moorpark by 19 points in the first half, and were down by 15 points early in the second half before coming back to defeat the Raiders 78-72 to claim a share of the Western State Conference North Division championship for the forth season in a row. Timothy Turner led the Pirates (17-11, 8-2) with 21 points and nine rebounds while Tone Patton had a double-double of 13 points and 11 boards.
Dayveon Bates came off the bench to score 15 points with eight rebounds and Jelani Bell totaled 13 points in the game. the Pirates offset a 32 percent (11-34) shooting performance in the first half by hitting 50 percent (12-24) of their shots in the final 20 minutes. VC also hit 26 of 29 free throws (67 percent) in the game while blocking eight shots on defense.
A close game in the beginning featured a pair of lead changes and two ties before the Raiders took control. They used a 25-5 run over nearly 10 minutes to take a 34-15 advantage with 4:55 remaining in the first half. The Pirates came back with their own 14-4 run before halftime to close the gap to under double figures by halftime. Patton started the run with a jumper and Turner followed with a drive and lay-up, thena 3-pointer. Patton's old-fashioned 3-point play narrowed the deficit to 37-27 with 1:14 on the clock. Thomas Dangerfield converted Lamont Landers' assist for another two before MC hit a free throw for the 38-29 halftime score.
The Raiders began the final period with a bucket and back-to-back threes to expand their lead to 46-31 with 18:39 remaining. The Pirates' wer not to be denied, however, as Turner assisted a Keron Bailey jumper to begin another Pirate run. Patton hit a jumper, Bates had a tip-in, and Bell converted from range to complete the 9-0 run to bring VC back to within 46-40 at the 16:36 mark. Moorpark was able to right their ship temporarily, moving back ahead by 14 points, 63-49, midway through the second half.
Turner made a lay-up to end the skid for Ventura, beginning the final comeback bid. Landers followed with a a pair of charity tosses, then Bates made three free throws out of four tries, and hit a triple to make it 63-59 at the 7:40 mark. After a scoreless minute, Landers hit one of two free throws, and Bell dropped a dime for a Turner three and the score was tied at 63 with 5:58 remaining. Turner hit another trey, Bell made a lay-up and Patton sank two free shots to complete a 21-0 Pirate run over 6:21 of game time for a 70-63 advantage with 3:58 on the clock. Moorpark managed to close back to within four points, 71-67 with a minute remaining, and to within two with 19 seconds left before Bell and landers hit free throws to set the final 78-72 margin.
With the victory, the Pirates end the season with an 8-2 conference record, tying with Cuesta College for the top spot in the standings. Winners of nine of their last 11 games overall, VC will await their playoff seed to be announced on Monday Feb. 25. The opening round of the CCCAA Southern California Regional Playoffs will begin on Wednesday Feb. 27.