The cross county rivalry between Ventura and Moorpark was renewed at Raider Pavilion Wednesday evening, another contest that came down to the wire with the Pirates falling 79-76. Vondel Faniel Paced VC with 26 points and eight rebounds.
Moorpark jumped out to an early 10-2 lead behind strong dribble penetration. The Pirates responded with physical post play from sophomore forward Vondel Faniel who converted on four of his first seven shot attempts. Moorpark led by seven with 11 minutes left in the opening half and a Moorpark 3-point bucket made it a 20-10 game at the midway point of the period.
Following a time out and defensive stop from the Pirates, Moorpark went to a zone defense. The Pirates quickly found freshman wing Robert Hunt who buried a triple from the corner. VC's following possessions were a bit sloppy but full of effort, behind three offensive rebounds from freshman forward Gabriel Lemon, who provided great energy off the bench. Ventura cut the lead in half at the seven-minute mark, 22-17.
Both teams struggled offensively against frequently changing defenses. However, the Pirates continued to dominate the glass as the half wound down. Moorpark knocked down back-to-back threes to draw their lead out, and then the Pirates answered with transition buckets from freshman guard Elijah Brown and Lemon. Both teams were stingy in the halves' closing minutes as neither team scored after the two-minute mark. Moorpark took a 36-31 lead into the break.
The Pirates dominated the glass with 25 team rebounds, nine of which were grabbed by sophomore forward Eric Davis and six from Lemon. VC struggled from the perimeter in the opening 20 minutes, going 1-12 from 3-point land. Eight first half turnovers didn't help the cause, as well. Faniel's 13 points from the paint paced the Ventura.
The second half started with more positive Pirate work, Davis grabbed his tenth rebound and Faniel flipped in a baby hook the following possession. Tough work on the glass kept the Ventura in the game, as Davis continued to grab everything on the defensive end and Faniel and other Pirates found their way to missed shots on the offensive side. The lead was cut to one at the 15-minute mark after Faniel knocked down two free throws following a Raider technical foul. The Raiders responded with 12-3 run due, in part, to Pirate fouls on jump shooters. MC led 53-45 with 12 minutes left in the contest.
Down by eight, the Pirates answered immediately out of a timeout with good inside out play resulting in a Hunt three pointer to cut the lead back to five. The Raiders kept a cushion in th eight-point range throughout the eight minute mark until freshman guard Jalon Wilson buried two free throws to cut the lead to six. The Pirates got into the bonus early in the second half and benefitted from the free throw line as well as a Davis three point bucket, which narrowed the gap to five points with under five minutes remaining. The Pirates continued to put pressure on the paint, with big buckets down the stretch from Davis and Faniel, cutting Moorpark's lead to one, 71-70, with two minutes on the clock.
VC forced a Raider turnover and regained possession with 1:29 to play. A Hunt 3-point attempt rimmed out, and the Pirates fouled on the ensuing rebound attempt. After two made free throws by MC, Ventura responded with what initially looked to be a 3-pointer from Jalon Wilson. The shot was rules a long two, however, leaving Ventura trailing by one with under 30 seconds left to play. After another Pirate foul, the Raiders made both free shots, hanging on for the 79-76 victory.
The Ventura sophomores performed well with Faniel pacing the Pirates with 26 points and eight rebounds. Davis pitched in 16 points and grabbed 15 of the team's 42 rebounds. Lemon finished with eight rebounds in his very productive minutes. Brown and Hunt scored 12 and 11 respectively to aid the Pirate offense.
The VC men next travel to San Luis Obispo as the second round of conference play begins on Saturday Jan. 31. They will battle conference leader Cuesta at 5:00 pm with the Pirate women to follow.