In another wild ride, the Pirates' women's basketball team snuck out of Porter Fieldhouse at the College of the Sequoias in Visalia with a 66-58 win over Riverside Friday in the quarterfinals of the Tom Gilcrest Invitational. Kyleesha Green scored 17 points in the game, 15 in the second half, to lead the Pirates and Davina Del Castillo had her third double-double in the past four games with 15 points and 19 rebounds along with three blocks and four steals for Ventura (5-2).
VC seemed untracked early with lay-ups by Green and Sienna Brown to take the early 4-0 advantage. The tigers turned it around, however scoring the next 12 points as the Pirates missed eight straight shots with six turnovers over a six minute span. Rhiana Dougan broke the skid with a bucket and Katie Campbell followed with a 3-pointer to close to within 12-9. Following a RCC free throw, Del Castillo connected on a pari of charity shots and the Pirates trailed 13-11 after the first quarter.
Brown, Celeste Salazar, Campbell and Dougan all scored early in the second to put Ventura ahead 18-15 at the 7:45 mark. With 6:18 remaining on the clock, a scary moment as the Pirates' Simone Lewis went down to a neck injury on an awkward play following a Pirate defensive rebound. Play was halted for over half an hour while Lewis was attended to and taken to a local hospital. (She later had several tests with positive results).
When play resumed, Riverside took the upper hand with a 7-0 run. Dougan halted the Tigers with a 3-pointer at the 3:45 mark. Del Castillo tied the game at 29-29 in the final minute with two free throws and Avery Brunk sent VC into the break ahead with a banked 3-pointer at the buzzer.
The Pirates seemed to put it together early in the third quarter as Green made three consecutive lay-ups to make it 38-35 at the 6:48 mark. Ventura missed its next seven shots, however, and RCC also had trouble finding the bottom of the net. When Salazar completed a 3-point play with 2:23 on the clock, the Pirates led 41-40 in a game that had gone sloppy quickly. The teams traded scores until the end of the period and Green's two free throws made it 45-44 for VC at the quarter break.
The tense play continued into the fourth quarter with the teams trading baskets. After falling behind 46-45, VC scored on three straight baskets by Brown, Del Castillo and Green to take a 5-point advantage with 7:23 on the clock. RCC tied the game at 51-51 two minutes later before Campbell connected for a big triple at the 5:25 mark. The Tigers tied the score again with 4:39 left to play and the two teams went scoreless for the next 3:20 until Brown connected on one of two free throws with 1:19 remaining. Green's 3-point play made it a four point game, 58-54 in the final minute, and Ventura hit seven of eight free throws to seal the win.
Campbell finished with 10 points and five rebounds. Brown pulled in seven boards while Melissa Ohmie had three rebounds and hit two crucial free throws in the final minute of play.
The Pirates advance to the tournament semifinals for the first time since 2013. They will take on the host Sequoias Giants at 8:00 pm on Saturday Dec. 3. The second semifinal match up features Mt. San Antonio and Pasadena.