The Pirates' women's basketball team dropped a difficult 56-55 decision to visiting Moorpark College on barbeque night at VC Saturday. Jasmyne Martin had 20 points to lead the Pirates while Nikki Puga totaled 12 points in the game. Davina Del Castillo pulled down a team-high eight rebounds. Despite the loss, the Pirates (21-7, 7-1) remain alone in first place in the Western State Conference North Division, one game ahead of Moorpark with two games remaining.
For the second time this season, the Pirates got off to a slow start against the Raiders. VC trailed 7-2 halfway through the first quarter before Martin ended a three-minute scoring skid with a 3-pointer. Puga scored from beyond the arc to close the gap to 12-11 at the 3:12 mark, the Martin tied the score with a free throw on the next possession. She then gave Ventura the lead with a made jumper, and the Pirates led at the end of the quarter, 15-13.
Del Castillo opened the second period with a three, and Talitha Draper made two free throws to extend the Ventura advantage to 20-14 inside the first minute of the stanza. The Raiders came back, however, with a 3-pointer on the next trip down the floor. A minute later, Puga nailed a trey to make the lead six again, but Moorpark kept pace with another timely long-range shot. Draper hit a deuce, and Alaina Garcia hit a three to make it 28-20 halfway through the quarter, and Avery Brunk's triple at the 3:30 mark made it a nine point margin, 31-22. Moorpark closed the half with an 8-0 run, and Ventura led 31-30 at halftime.
The teams battled throughout the third quarter with three ties and four lead changes in the first five minutes. Del Castillo made a jumper with 3:28 remaining to lift the Pirates to a three point advantage, 40-37, but MC came back for the 43-42 advantage. Martin scored the final five points of the period for Ventura as they took a 47-45 margin into the final 10 minutes.
Scoring came at a premium in the final quarter between the two well prepared teams. Martin scored twice to give Ventura a 51-45 lead with 8:07 left to play, and the Raiders hit a bucket two minutes later to pull to within four. Puga hit a charity toss with 6:14 remaining to extend the lead back to five, 52-47. At that point the Pirate offense went cold, missing its next eight shots over five minutes. Moorpark took the lead, building a 56-52 margin with 1:02 on the clock before Puga hit another three to pull VC to within 56-55 with 44 seconds left. On the ensuing possession, the Raiders milked the clock down before Puga was able to corral a loose ball giving the Pirates a chance. Unfortunately, the final shot fell short and the Pirates dropped the one point decision.
Draper finished with seven points and eight boards in the game while Puga had a team-high four assists.
The Pirates will next travel to Oxnard College on Wednesday Feb. 14. Tip-off at the Condors' Nest is slated for 5:00 pm.