Saturday afternoon the Oxnard Condors returned to the Athletic Event Center for the first time in three years, and knocked off the Pirates 56-54 in a sloppy game characterized with turnovers and missed opportunities by the Pirates.
Oxnard jumped out to an early lead behind their zone defense that appeared to lull Ventura to sleep a bit offensively. The Pirates responded with strong, attacking play, finding freshman wing Robert Hunt open in the corner for a couple threes as the end of the half neared. While the zone appeared to slow Ventura down offensively, it did nothing to slow down the Pirates on the glass. Strong rebounding kept VC in the game in the first half, with the Pirates grabbing 10 offensive and 15 defensive boards to Oxnard's 16 total rebounds. Despite 13 first half turnovers and 33 percent shooting from the floor, the score at the half was tied at 26-26.
Hunt paced the Pirates early with eight points in the opening half, while sophomore forward Eric Davis grabbed seven rebounds and freshman guard Jamal Lewis nabbed six boards in the game's first 20 minutes.
The Pirates came out of halftime playing more aggressively, jumping the Condors and taking an 11 point lead in the first few minutes. A pair of Lewis three pointers helped spread the Oxnard zone out, opening up the middle to penetration and post entries. However, the Pirates never seemed comfortable on the attack doing either of those things. A slew of Pirate missed shots and miscommunication defensively allowed the Condors back in the game around the 12-minute mark. The final ten minutes were back and forth, with both teams settling for jump shots rather than attacking the rim.
Once again, the Pirates ability to work hard on the glass kept them in the game, getting second chance after second chance. VC grabbed nine offensive boards in the period, but unfortunately they were not able to capitalize on all of them. With under a minute to play, down two and needing a stop, the Pirates got just that.
A VC timeout with twelve second remaining allowed them to draw up a final look. Ultimately the ball would bounce out of bounds under the Pirate basketball with three seconds on the clock. After Condor timeout, the Pirates had a look for Hunt in the corner, but his shot was blocked out of bounds with a little more than a second to play. On the ensuing inbounds play, VC found Elijah Brown, who was able to split two defenders, but his shot rimmed out and the Condors were able to hang on to the two-point victory.
The Ventura outrebounded Oxnard 45-32, but unfortunately VC also committed 16 turnovers and shot under 30 percent for the game, rarely a recipe for success in the Western State Conference.
Scoring was once again spread out, with Lewis pacing the Pirates with 11 points and eight rebounds. Freshmen guards Brown and Hunt each added ten. Davis chipped in nine. Vondel Faniel, while only getting three looks at the basket still worked hard on the glass grabbing eight rebounds. The Oxnard zone went a long way in neutralizing the big man who has been on a double-double tear in conference play.
The Pirates will be on the road next week at Moorpark on Wednesday Jan. 24 and at Cuesta Saturday Jan. 31. VC will return home the following Saturday, Feb. 7 to host Allan Hancock. All the games are slated to begin at 5:00 pm, with the VC women to follow.