It took some time, a two-week break in the schedule and an extra period at the end of the game, but the Pirates' men's basketball team got back in the win column with a 74-72 victory over Porterville in the opening round of the Kriby Mannon Pepsi/Holiday Inn Tournament at the College of the Sequoais in Visalia Friday afternoon. The win was the first for the young Pirates in nearly a month with Robert Hunt leading the way scoring 19 points.
Ventura opened the game as if they were still on break, falling behind 12-4 in the opening minutes. However, the VC Pirates weren't going to lay down, and fought back with tough defense and good perimeter shooting from Hunt, Jamal Lewis and Toure Atwater. Ventura closed the half strongly, taking a 38-36 lead into the break. Freshman guard Lewis led VC scorers with nine, while Elijah Brown and Atwater each added eight.
The second half was a back-and-forth affair between the two Pirate teams, Ventura and Porterville. VC had a 5-0 run quickly reversed with a 7-0 run by Porterville. Neither team could pull away, but Porterville maintained a five point lead late in the contest. Ventura came up with important stops down the stretch, allowing them to cut the lead to three with under a minute to play. Following a timeout, the VC Pirates ran a well executed play capped by a game tying Robert Hunt 3-point basket with 12 seconds remaining. After a solid VC defensive possession the game went into overtime 63-63.
Ventrua continued with poised offensive play and aggressive and intelligent defense in the extra time. In the final seconds with the score tied at 72, Lewis hit a penetrating jumper to give VC a two-point and final lead of 74-72.
Hunt paced the Pirates with 19 points, also adding four rebounds. Lewis finished with 15, and Vondel Faniel and Brown both netted 11. Atwater finished with 10 points for the victorious Pirates.
Ventura advances to the tournament semifinals where they will face a familiar foe, the San Bernardino Valley College Wolverines. The Pirates and Wolverines tip Saturday Dec. 20 at 5:00 pm at the College of the Sequoias.