The Pirates' women's basketball team fell behind big in the first quarter before coming back against No. 3-ranked Mt San Jacinto in the championship game of the VC-Optimist Club Holiday Tournament Saturday at the Athletic Event Center. The Pirates trailed 25-4 with 3:45 remaining in the first quarter, and came all the way back to tie the score at 76 in the final minute before falling 80-76. Davina Del Castillo and Jasmyne Martin each totaled 18 points to lead the way for No. 12 VC (12-6), earning all-tournament honors.
The visiting Eagles scored early and often in the first period as the Pirates had trouble matching their playoff-like intensity. MSJC opened up a 13-2 lead in the first three-plus minutes of play, and moved that advantage to 25-4 with 3:45 remaining in the first period. Del Castillo made back-to-back threes to trim the deficit to 25-10, and a 3-pont play by the sophomore forward, and another deuce off an Elissa Root pass brought Ventura back to within 27-15 at the end of the stanza.
Avery Brunk nailed a triple from the left corner off a Root dime to open the second period, and Celeste Salazar's trey made the score 30-23 with 7:37 on the clock. Buckets by Kylie Vint, with an assist from Alaina Garcia, and Melissa Ohmie, with a helper by Salazar, closed the gap to 34-28, and Del Castillo made three of four free throws at the 2:36 mark to make it 36-31. Martin's 3-pointer in the final minute brought the Pirates back to within 38-34 at intermission.
The teams traded baskets early in the third quarter before MSJC pulled back away midway through the period. With the Pirates trailing 53-40, Root and Nikki Puga scored on back-to back possessions to get the lead back under double-figures. Martin then scored at the buzzer to pull Ventura back to within 55-46.
The Eagles expanded their lead to 14 points, 62-48, with 8:11 remaining in the contest when Puga, the fourth quarter hero from the night before, began to heat up. She hit a 3-pointer off an Ohmie assist, and after a Vint deuce, scored again off a pass from Salazar. The Eagles answered with a lay-up to go ahead 66-55, and Puga responded with another triple with help from Del Castillo. THe, Del Castillo recorded a steal that led to a Salazar triple, with an assist by Puga, and the Pirates pulled within five, 66-61 with 5:12 remaining.
With the Pirates trailing by nine, 72-63, with just over a minute remaining, Puga sandwiched a pair of threes around a Mt. San Jacinto free throw to pull the Pirates to within 73-69. After the eagles hit two more charity shots with :39 on the clock, Davina Del Castillo hit a mid-range jumper from the left baseline to make it 75-71. Ventura fouled again on the ensuing possession, and after MSJC hit one of two shots, the Pirates took the rebound. Martin drove the length of the court, gave the ball up to Vint, only to get it back for a 3-pointer with :16 left and a 76-74 score.
After advancing the ball on the timeout, MSJC's inbounds pass sailed high, and into the waiting arms of Del Castillo. Running the floor, martin received a pass on the left side and drove the baseline in for the game-tying lay-up with 7.5 seconds left.
Unfortunately, the Pirates fouled on the next possession, and the Eagles cashed in the two free shots. After advancing the ball on the timeout, Ventura then committed its own turnover on the inbounds pass, and the following Pirate foul and MSJC free throws set the final 80-76 margin.
Puga finished with 16 points on the night, 14 coming in the final period, and Salazar had nine points, nine rebounds and five dimes. Kylie Vint netted eight points with four rebounds.
Ventura will next play College of the Canyons on Friday Jan. 5 at Oxnard College. Tip-off is scheduled for 5:00 pm.
The Pirates' next home game will be Saturday Jan. 6 against Glendale. Game time is slated for 6:00 pm at the Athletic Event Center. That eveining will also feature a post-game reception celebrating Coach Ned Mircetic's 800th career victory recorded earlier this month.