The Tom Gilcrest Invitational at the College of the Sequoias is no joke. The state's premier tournament is a difficult test, and the young Pirates found that out first half Saturday night against the host Giants. After taking a 22-14 lead early in the second quarter, VC (6-3) hit a wall as Sequoias went on a 17-3 run to close the half as the Pirates fell to the Giants 61-48 in the tournament semifinals Saturday night. Talia Taufaasau netted 18 points with six rebounds to lead Ventura and Cece Quintino totaled 14 points. LaDaesha Merriweather pulled in 12 rebounds.
The Pirates held the upper hand early. Merriweather and Taufaasau each hit buckets, and Emma Larson followed with a 3-pointer as the Pirates turned a 6-5 deficit into a 12-6 advantage. Sequoias pulled back to within 14-12 before Quintino hit a jumper and Madison Cvijanovich hit three free throws to push the Ventura lead to seven. VC led 19-14 at the quarter break.
Taufaasau hit a 3-pointer from the left wing early in the second quarter to push the VC margin to 22-14 when the Pirates hit the wall. VC was limited to just three made free throws over the final 8:29 of the half, and Sequoias took advantage with a 17-3 run to close the period. COS took a 23-22 lead at the 4:12 mark, and Taufaasau followed with two free shots to put the Pirates back in front. The Giants hit a pair of 3-pointers down the stretch and took a 31-25 lead into halftime.
Sequoias opened the third period with six straight points to take control of the game before a Quintino jumper halted the skid. The Giants extended their advantage to 19 points, 51-32, with a 3-pointer with 58 seconds remaining in the quarter before Taufaasau hit a pair of charity shots to close the period.
Ari Tubbs opened the fourth with a 3-pointer for VC, and the Pirates kept fighting despite the deficit. Taufaasau hit from range, and Quintino's jumper at the 4:43 mark brought the Pirates to within 56-44. Merriweather's layup reduced the margin to 10 points with 2:17 left, but a three and a two by the Giants ended the game. The Pirates fell to defeat 61-48.
Ventura will regroup quickly, facing San Joaquin Delta College on Sunday Dec. 2 at 2:00 pm in the tournament's third place game.