The Pirates' women's basketball team has proven itself to be elite once again, defeating Irvine Valley 73-53 Saturday night at the Athletic Event Center to advance to the CCCAA State Elite Eight for a state record 18th time, the 17th time in 29 years under head coach Ned Mircetic. Talia Taufaasau had 24 points, including 19 in the second half, to lead the way while Emma Larson had her second season-high in as many games with 16 points, including four 3-pointers. Cece Quintino netted 13 points with six rebounds and six assists for the Pirates (25-9).
Ventura, seeded No. 5 in the SoCal Regional Playoffs, got off to a cold start, misfiring on their first seven shot attempts. The No. 13-seeded Lasers did not fare much better, missing four straight shots and two free throws after hitting on their first two shot attempts. IVC hit a jumper at the 6:06 mark of the quarter to go ahead 7-0 before Taufaasau's drive down the left side for a lay-up and the foul got VC on the board. She converted the free throw for the 3-point play and the Pirates were in business. Quintino made a lay-up, then assisted a 3-pointer by Larson and Ventura took an 8-7 lead a minute later. Larson's next triple with 2:43 remaining completed an 11-0 Pirate run, and they led 15-13 at the end of the first period.
Madison Cvijanovich's shot fake and drive got the ball rolling in the second stanza for VC, and Quintino followed with back-to-back three's for a 23-16 advantage at the 6:26 mark. Both teams went scoreless for the next three minutes before IVC broke the skid with a deuce. Larson answered for Ventura with a soft 15-footer before LaDaesha Merriweather, Taufaasau and Robin Prince all scored in the final two minutes of the half for a 31-20 Pirate edge at intermission.
Taufaasau caught fire in the third quarter, scoring VC's first seven points to extend the lead to 38-20 with 5:39 remaining. following an Irvine Valley bucket, Victoria Maciel got into the act, hitting a pair of 3-pointers from assists by Larson and Quintino, respectively. Larson made another shot from range at the 2:13 mark of the period before the Lasers managed a 10-0 spurt to close the quarter. VC led at the quarter break, 47-39.
Opening the final stanza, Taufaasau made it clear that this was the Pirates' night with back-to back 3-pointers. Larson's fourth triple of the game answered a two by IVC and Ventura stretched the lead back to 15 points, 56-41. Maciel hit from range for a 63-44 advantage at the 6:38 mark, before the Lasers made one last stand, a 7-2 run to close back to within 14 points, 61-47, with 3:19 remaining. Merriweather then found Larson all alone under the basket for a lay-up at the 2:26 mark and the celebration was on. The Pirates shot free throws the rest of the way, pulling away for the 73-53 victory.
Maciel finished the game with 10 points and four steals while Merriweather had six points and a team-high 11 rebounds. Taufaasau added five assists to her point total.
The Pirates posted their 25th win of the season for the 24th time in Mircetic's tenure, advancing to the Elite Eight for a state record 18th time, the 17th time under Mircetic's direction.
Ventura, SoCal's No. 4 remaining team, will play NorCal No. 1 Diablo Valley (29-1) at 5:00 pm on Friday March 15 at the Athletic Event Center. Other state quarterfinal games will include: NorCal No. 2 Merced (28-3) vs. SoCal No. 3 East Los Angeles (27-6) at 1:00 pm, SoCal No. 2 LA Trade Tech (28-4) vs. NorCal No. 3 San Joaquin Delta (25-5) at 3:00 pm, and SoCal No. 1 Moorpark (30-1) vs. SoCal No. 4 Sequoias (24-3) at 7:00 pm. Admission, set by the CCCAA, is $12 for general admission and $8 for college students with ID, faculty with ID, staff with ID, senior citizens 60 and over, children less than 12 years of age.