In a battle between two of the top-ranked teams in the state, the Pirates' women's basketball team dropped a 96-82 decision at Moorpark Wednesday night. The Pirates trailed the top-ranked Raiders by as many as 19 points midway through the third period before VC (19-8, 4-1) worked the deficit back to six points in the final minute of the game. Talia Taufaasau led No. 15-ranked Ventura with 21 points four rebounds and three assists while Cece Quintino added 19 points while handing out seven dimes and pulling in six boards.
Both teams were on fire offensively with Ventura shooting a season-high 58.6 percent from the floor (34-58) while Moorpark countered by making 33 of 63 shot attempts (52.4 percent). The Pirates connected on nine of 16 shots behind the 3-point arc (56.3 percent) and the Raiders were 12-28 (42.9 percent). The difference came with 12 Pirate turnovers against just two for Moorpark, and the Raiders were 18-19 (94.7 percent) at the free throw line while VC shot 5-6 (83.3 percent) at the charity stripe.
The excitement started early as Moorpark hit a three on their first possession, a minute later, Victoria Maciel hit from range to tie the score. MC scored the next seven points before Taufaasau made a 3-pointer to make it 10-6 with 6:21 remaining in the opening period. Both teams kept up the scoring pace with Quintino's triple off a Maciel assist closing the gap to 22-18 in the final minute of the quarter. Moorpark countered, however, with two three's sandwiched around a Quintino deuce and the Raiders led 28-20 at the end of the period.
Moorpark extended their lead to 10 points early in the second quarter, but buckets by Maciel, Robin Fallandy and Colleen Clow kept the deficit close to the double-figure threshold. Robin Prince and Madison Cvijanovich sandwiched 3-pointers around a Quintino two and the Pirates pulled back to within 41-34 with 4:29 left in the half. Prince then answered an MC score, and Cvijanovich hit again from range and the score was 43-39 at the 3:29 mark. The Raider advantage remained at four with Quintino's jumper in the final minute, but Moorpark closed the half with a 3-pointer for a 50-43 halftime lead.
The Pirates came out of intermission cold, misfiring on their first seven shot attempts. Moorpark, however, went on an 11-0 run to start the half, and by the time Maciel hit a runner at the 6:28 mark the damage had been done. A 3-point play by Moorpark on the next possession extended the Pirate deficit to 19 points, 64-45, with 6:10 on the clock. The Pirates went on a mini 7-0 run to pull to within 64-52 with a score by LaDaesha Merriweather and a two and a three by Taufaasau, and after another Raider three, Taufaasau and Cvijanovich scored to prompt a Moorpark timeout. Both teams cooled off a bit in the final two minutes of the stanza, but a Moorpark 3-point play made it 73-59 at the quarter break.
Early in the fourth quarter, the Pirates tried on numerous occasions to reduce the deficit into single digits. When Quintino found Merriweather with a bounce pass in the paint leading to an easy score with 6:37 remaining, Ventura had cut the MC lead to 77-67. But the Raiders had answers on this night, upping the lead back to 14 points. The Pirates finally broke through with Quintino assisting a fast break lay-up by Maciel to make it 83-73 with 3:50 remaining. Quintino then assisted a Taufaasau long-range bomb from the left wing as the Pirates reduced the lead to seven with 2:30 on the clock. In the final minute of play, Prince scored inside off another Quintino dime to make it 86-80, but VC could get no closer. The Raiders hit all 10 of their free throw attempts down the stretch to post the final 96-82 margin.
Cvijanovich finished with 12 points and four rebounds while Maciel was the fourth Pirate in double figures with 11 points to go along with three dimes. Prince had a solid night off the bench with nine points and nine rebounds while Merriweather, who battled foul trouble in the first half, came in with six points and six rebounds.
Ventura begins the second half of Western State Conference North Division play on Saturday Feb. 9 at Santa Barbara City College. Tip-off is slated for 7:00 pm at the Sports Pavilion following the VC men at 5:00 pm.