In another tough, physical battle, the Ventura College women's basketball team remained the only undefeated team in the state with a 61-56 victory over Mt. San Antonio in the championship game of the Tom Gilcrest Invitational at the College of the Sequoias in Visalia. Tournament MVP Talia Taufaasau had 18 points and three blocked shots to lead the way and all-tournament selection Cece Quintino totaled 13 points, two assists and three steals. Madison Kast had 10 points and seven rebounds while Kimora Pooler posted eight points with 11 boards. LaDaesha Merriweather pulled in 10 rebounds for the Pirates (9-0).
The Pirates got off to a quick start with scored by Quintino and Merriweather in the opening minute. Mt. SAC answered with six straight points to take a 6-4 lead before Taufaasau assisted Pooler's lay-up to tie the game at the 5:39 mark of the opening period. The teams then exchanged 5-point runs with the Mounties opening up the slim lead prior to the Pirates answering with two Taufaasau free throws and a 3-point play by Kast. Mt. SAC finished the period with a pair of buckets in the final minute for a 15-11 edge at the quarter break.
Mt. San Antonio opened up their biggest lead of the game with a bucket to open the second quarter. Ventura then came back with a 6-0 run to knot the score at 17-17. Quintino began the run with a midrange jumper and Pooler hit one of two charity tosses. Taufaasau closed the run with a 3-pointer from a Quintino dime with 7:56 remaining in the first half. The Mounties then opened up a 5-point advantage, and it stayed in that range until an Alaina Garcia three and a lay-up from Nikki Puga tied the game at 26-26 heading to intermission.
Quintino began the second half with a steal that led to Taufaasau's 15-footer, completing a 7-0 Pirate run for a 2-point VC advantage. The Mounties took a 31-30 lead with 7:09 remaining in the period before Tuafaasau hit again from midrange and Pooler completed an old-fashioned 3-point play to open up a 34-30 edge a minute later. Mt. SAC tied the score midway through the third with four straight when Quintino gave the Pirates the lead for good on the next possession. A Taufaasau free shot, a Quintino jumper, a 17-footer from Pooler and a Quintino free throw completed an 8-0 Ventura run, giving them a 42-34 margin with 1:49 on the clock. Mt. SAC closed to within three, but Kast cashed in an Alyssandra Lacanilao dime to hold off the Mounties. Taufaasau's lay-up with 14 seconds left gave VC the 46-41 advantage heading to the final period.
Taufaasau's jumper to begin the fourth opened up a 48-41 margin for the Pirates, but the Mounties kept up the charge. They closed to within 50-48 before Kast hit two free throws, and the score was 52-50 with 4:17 remaining when Quintino made a charity toss to begin the Pirates' decisive 6-0 run. Kast scored with an inside shot followed by a free throw by Victoria Maciel and another jumper by Quintino with 3:07 remaining. Mt. SAC closed to within four in the final minute, but the Pirates hit three of four free throws to seal the victory.
The victory marks the Pirates' first title in the state's premier non-conference tournament since the 2009-10 season. It also equals the 2011-12 team's 9-0 start.
Ventura's journey continues on Friday Dec. 13 against Fullerton in the LA Valley-Buddy's All Star Classic. Tip-off against the Hornets is slated for 3:00 pm in Valley Glen.