The Pirates' women's basketball team overcame first half foul trouble and a shaky second quarter to pull away from No. 9-ranked Irvine Valley 62-51 Saturday night in the VC-Optimist Club Holiday Classic. Ventura, ranked No. 4 in the state, had three starters sitting with foul issues for large portions of the second quarter in which they managed just seven points, but they pulled out the victory with a 40-point final half. Talia Taufaasau had 17 of her 23 points in the second half to lead VC (13-2) while Madison Kast and Alyssandra Lacanilao each added 10.
Kast got the Pirates going early with a 3-pointer from the right corner from a Cece Quintino assist. The Lasers soon tied the score and the teams traded buckets for much of the opening period. With VC trailing 10-9, Kimora Pooler hit three of four free throws over a minute span to put Ventura ahead. Victoria Maciel followed with a three with help by Emma Larson and the Pirates led 15-10 at the end of the period.
Early in the second quarter Taufaasau scored on a lay-up to put Ventura ahead 19-12. On the next possession, however, she picked up her second foul and went to the bench, joining Kast and Quintino in foul trouble. The Pirates played the final seven minutes of the quarter without the three starters, and held fast defensively while struggling to find the bottom of the net offensively. Irvine went on a 9-0 run over the next four-plus minutes to go ahead 21-19. Lacanilao ended the skid for Ventura with a drive and score in the final minute of the half, then made a free throw with one second remaining to give VC a 22-21 halftime edge.
Irvine took a short-lived 23-22 lead on the first possession of the second half, but Quintino answered with a lay-up giving the Pirates the advantage. IVC tied the game at 24-24 with a free throw before Taufaasau gave Ventura the lead for good with an old-fashioned 3-point play with 7:12 remaining in the stanza. Taufaasau then followed an Irvine bucket with a shot from range for a 30-26 VC lead, and then scored a lay-up with an assist by Quintino for a 36-30 advantage with 4:12 left in the period. LaDaesha Merriweather scored inside for a 40-36 Pirate margin, and Taufaasau hit three free throws after she was fouled on a 3-point shot giving VC a 43-38 lead at the quarter break.
Lacanilao got things going in the final period with a pair of runners in the paint to open up a 47-40 lead at the 7:33 mark. Larson's two free throws opened up a double-digit lead, 50-40 midway through the period, and the Pirates put the game away with three straight triples, by Taufaasau, Quintino and Lacanilao, all off of the extra pass. Quintino hit two charity shots in the last minute for the 62-51 final margin.
Pooler and Merriweather owned the glass with 15 and 14 rebounds, respectively. VC held a 56-38 rebound advantage in the game. Quintino added nine points, five boards and five dimes for the Pirates and Kast pulled in six caroms.
Ventura will close out the Optimist Club Holiday Classic on Sunday Dec. 29 against No. 16-ranked Mt. San Jacinto. Tip-off with the Eagles is scheduled for 5:00 pm at the Athletic Event Center.