The Pirates' men's basketball team got back on the winning track Friday night with a solid 67-53 win over visiting Riverside City College at the Athletic Event Center. Eric Davis came off the bench to lead VC (7-9) with 17 points and nine rebounds.
The game also featured a homecoming for Ventura College Hall of Fame coach Phil Mathews, who now directs the RCC Tigers. From 1985-1995, Mathews led the resurgence of VC basketball, directing the Pirates to 10 Western State Conference titles and two state championships. Pirate head coach Joey Ramirez and assistant Hakeem Ward both played for Mathews.
With both teams coming off the Christmas break and a 10 day layoff, play was a little rusty at the start. The Pirates broke a 4-4 tie with an 8-0 run , spured off the bench by Davis. he hit a 3-pointer and two free throws, then assisted a triple by Jalon Wilson as VC led 12-4 at the 11:34 mark of the opening period.
After the Tigers closed to within 12-9, Ventura went on a 9-0 run to break the game open a bit. Jamal Lewis connected for a deuce and Vondel Faniel connected on a putback bucket to begin the run. Faniel scored again and Lewis made three free throws after being fouled on a 3-point shot attempt. Faniel assisted Davis' third 3-pointer of the half and the Pirates led 24-9 with 8:16 left in the half. RCC got to within seven points at the 4:08 mark, 27-20, but the Pirates built their halftime lead back to 38-24.
VC's lead never strayed below double-figures in the second half, as they used solid shooting from the floor (10-23, 45%) to maintain their advantage. The Pirates won the game by a final of 67-53.
Behind Davis, Faniel had a double-double of 16 points and a game-high 11 rebounds. Lewis also hit double-figures with 16 points and Elijah Brown added 11. Wilson handed out three assists to lead Ventura.
The Pirates open WSC North Division play on Wednesday Jan. 7, hosting Cuesta College. Tip-off is scheduled for 5:00 pm at the Athletic Event Center, and the game will be followed by the Pirates' women's game against the Cougars at 7:00 pm.