For three quarters the VC women's basketball team gave undefeated Sequoias all it could handle. The Pirates held a one point advantage late in the third period before fading to a 69-58 loss in the semifinals of the Tom Gilcrest Invitational in Visalia. Davina Del Castillo led Ventura (6-3) with a double-double of 14 points and 10 rebounds to go along with four steals while Elissa Root and Celeste Salazar each totaled 10 points.
Trailing 4-0 early, Kylie Vint got the Pirates on the board with a 3-point play with an assist by Salazar. Nikki Puga and Del Castillo each hit 3-pointers to pull Ventura even at 10-10 with 4;31 left in the first quarter before Sequoias went on a 9-2 run over the next two-plus minutes. Jasmyne Martin, who was slowed with an ankle injury from Friday's game, scored a lay-up and Del Castillo connected from beyond the arc again to reduce the COS lead to 21-17. After giving up a 3-pointer and a lay-up, Melissa Ohmie closed the period with a lay-up to make it 26-19 at the quarter break.
The Pirates went over three minutes without scoring to begin the second period, but their defense held fast, only allowing two points to Sequoias. Salazar broke the drought with a triple at the 6:56 mark, and two minutes later, Root made a jumper to bring the Pirates to within 28-24. Del Castillo split a pair of free shots, followed by a bucket by the Giants. Root, who made her first start as a Pirate in place of the injured Martin, connected for two free throws making the score 30-29 with 3:02 remaining. Del Castillo tied the game at 32 with her third trey of the game, and Root put VC ahead with a steal, foul and two free throws on the next possession. COS closed the final minute of the half with three made charity shots, however, and VC trailed 35-34 at the break.
Despite keeping the game close, Ventura continued to play from behind in the third period. They once again took over three minutes to score, but he defense kept things close. Del Castillo broke the ice with a lay-up with 6:52 on the clock and Ventura only trailed 39-36. The teams traded baskets until Vint made a deuce and Salazar followed with a trey to tie the score at 41 with 4:08 left in the stanza. The Giants kept the lead following the tie until Salazar's bucket with 1:37 remaining gave Ventura a 49-48 advantage. COS countered with the final four points of the period to lead 52-49 after three.
Alaina Garcia connected for two to open the fourth quarter, but the Pirates were unable to follow that score up for five minutes of game play. Sequoias went on a 6-0 run over that time, but when Puga made a jumper with 4:47 left in the game, the Pirates were still in it, trailing by five, 58-53. That would be as close as VC would get the rest of the way home, however, as Sequoias pulled away for the 69-58 win down the stretch.
Root and Salazar each dished out three assists in the game and Puga netted eight points.
Ventura moves into the tournament's third place game for the second straight year. They will face Los Angeles Valley College on Sunday Dec. 3 at 2:00 pm in Visalia.