The Ventura College women's basketball team spotted visiting Mt. San Antonio the first nine points of the game, eventually falling 65-58 in the championship game of the 20th VC-Kiwanis Tournament of Champions Sunday at the Athletic Event Center. Nikki Puga led VC (4-2) with 14 points while all-tournament selections Jasmyne Martin and Davina Del Castillo each netted 12. Celeste Salazar pulled in 10 rebounds for the Pirates.
In the match up of the two most successful programs in California Community College women's basketball history with 15 of the past 21 state titles between the two, the Mounties gained the upper hand early, scoring the first nine points of the game. The Pirates missed their first nine field goal attempts, hitting five free throws in the first five minutes of play. But even with the slow start, after Del Castillo made the Pirates' first bucket with 4:43 remaining in the opening quarter, and after a Kylie Vint offensive rebound and put back a minute later, the Pirates only trailed 13-9. Mt. SAC scored the final six points of the quarter,however, and opened up a 19-9 advantage at the quarter break.
The Mounties scored the first three points of the second quarter to make it a 9-0 run, opening up a 22-9 lead with 8:42 on the clock. Puga hit a 3-pointer on the next possession, following a pair of offensive rebounds by the Pirates, to break the drought. The Pirates still trailed 26-16 halfway through the second stanza before going on a 12-2 run over the next 4-plus minutes. Melissa Ohmie and Martin both hit one of two free throws, and Vint had a short jumper inside to cut the lead to six. Following a Mt. SAC bucket, Elissa Root split a pair of charity shots, and Martin followed with two free shots and a field goal.Vint hit another jumper with an assist by Salazar to make it a 1-point contest, and Martin's lay-up off a pass by Vint gave VC its first lead of the game, 29-28, with 37 seconds remaining. The lead was short-lived, however, as Mt. SAC hit a shot with 11 seconds remaining to take a 30-29 lead into halftime.
The VC defense did a solid job at the beginning of the third period, holding the Mounties scoreless for the first 2:15 of play, but the offense could not reciprocate and take advantage. The Pirates came up empty in four trips down the floor with three missed shots and two turnovers before the Mounties got on the board first. Del Castillo quickly answered with a drive and lay-up, and Ohmie's inside move for a score put Ventura ahead 33-32 with 6:21 left in the quarter. Unfortunately for VC, Mt. SAC answered with a quick three, then a free throw to retake the lead. VC trailed 42-37 at the 1:07 mark when Puga nailed another shot from range, and Del Castillo followed with another drive and score to tie the game at 42 with 21 seconds left. Mt. SAC responded with a 3-pointer with :08 on the clock to take a 45-52 margin into the final period.
Another three-ball opened up the Mountie's advantage early in the fourth, and the Pirates were playing catch-up the rest of the way. Ventura trailed 49-43 when Martin and Draper scored on back-to back possessions to cut the lead to two, and the Pirates then had two possessions to tie the game, but to no avail. Mt. SAC responded with their own 4-0 mini-run to hold a 53-47 lead with 4:48 on the clock. Mt. SAC extended the lead to eight points in the final minute, but Puga's 3-pointer with 46 seconds left closed the gap to 60-55. The Pirates would get no closer, however, as Mt. SAC was able to hold the Pirates off in the end.
VC's two-person rotation inside had another solid night with Draper recording eight points and seven rebounds and Vint scoring seven points with six boards.
Ventura will travel to Visalia in the coming week for the Tom Gilcrest Invitational at the College of the Sequoias. The Pirates will take on Reedley College in the opening game on Thursday Nov. 30 at 1:00 pm.