Ventura College Athletics

Cagers Advance to 11th Straight ToC Championship Game

Pirate freshman Nikki Puga had 14 points and four assists in VC's 71-56 victory over Canyons Saturday in the VC-Kiwanis Tournament of Champions.
Pirate freshman Nikki Puga had 14 points and four assists in VC's 71-56 victory over Canyons Saturday in the VC-Kiwanis Tournament of Champions.

The Pirates' women's basketball team used a strong third quarter to outlast a game Canyons team 71-56 Saturday night in the semifinals of the VC-Kiwanis Tournament of Champions at the Athletic Event Center. Jasmyne Martin had a double-double with 19 points and 10 rebounds and Nikki Puga posted 14 points with four assists in the victory. Ventura (4-1) advances to the tournament's championship game for the 16th time in 20 years, the 11th year in a row.

Neither team seemed to be able to get untracked in the first quarter with the game remaining close. There were three ties and six lead changes in the first 10 minutes, with Davina Del Castillo hitting a pair of free throws at the 1:24 mark to give VC a 13-12 advantage. A pair of charity tosses by Kylie Vint gave the Pirates a 15-12 lead at the quarter break.

In the second period, Ventura continued the run wit the first seven points, completing a 9-0 run for a 20-11 margin. The Cougars countered with a pair of 3-pointers before Celeste Salazar turned the tide with a long-ranger of her own. Canyons was able to come all the way back and tie the score at 27-27 with 3:15 left in the half when Martin hit a jumper and Salazar hit another triple and a deuce to open the game back up. Ventura led 34-29 at halftime.

The Pirates opened the second half with a 10-3 run to extend their lead. Martin hit a 3-pointer off a Puga assist, and Vint answered a CoC bucket with a short jumper. After a Cougar charity toss, Puga hit from range from an assist by Del Castillo, and Puga scored on a drive and lay-up. Elissa Root finished the run with a made free throw and VC led 45-32 with 7:04 remaining in the quarter. Ventura went on a two minute scoring drought at that point, but the defense only allowed a pair of Canyons free throws during that time. Martin ended the skid with a charity toss at the 5:05 mark. Del Castillo followed with a free shot and Vint hit another shot inside to open up the lead to 15 points, 49-34. Toward the end of the period, Canyons closed to within 51-40, but Puga scored the final five points of the quarter as VC led 56-40 at the break.

Ventura maintained its lead in the final period, beginning with Puga's sixth and seventh straight points on a lay-up at the 8:57 mark for an 18-point cushion. The Cougars were able to close to within 12 points on a couple of occasions, but could get no closer as the Pirates always found an answer. In the end, VC rode away with the 71-56 victory.

Salazar and Vint made it four Pirates in double figures with 13 and 11 points, respectively. Del Castillo led on the glass with 15 rebounds to go along with three assists and two steals while Talitha Draper had six boards. Vint pulled in four rebounds and had a pair of blocked shots.

Other scores from the tournament included Taft over Laney, 81-64, Long Beach over Santa Monica, 65-54, and Mt. San Antonio over San Joaquin Delta 70-65. Sunday's Consolation Final will match Taft and Long Beach at 12:00 pm and the 3rd Place game will feature Canyons and Delta at 2:00 pm. VC will battle Mt. SAC in the tournament final for the 11th time at 4:00 pm.  Both the 3rd Place game and championship game can be seen live on the VC Sports Network.