In the end, the game is about putting a basketball through a hoop. On Friday night, that proved to be a difficult task for the No. 5-seed Pirates' women's basketball team as they fell in the CCCAA SoCal Regional Semifinals 41-35 to No. 12 Cypress. Ventura (23-8) went ice cold from the floor, connecting on just 22 percent of their shots in the game despite a 17-point, eight-rebound effort from Davina Del Castillo. Jasmyne Martin added 11 points as VC had their season come to a close.
Things looked good early for the Pirates as Del Castillo connected for a two and a three to put VC ahead 5-2 just 2:30 into the game. Martin hit a mid-range jumper a minute later, and it seemed to be slow and steady progress for Ventura. Cypress came back to hold a brief 8-7 lead, but two buckets by Melissa Ohmie put the Pirates back on top 11-9 with 3:15 on the clock. The Chargers ended the period on a 7-0 run, however, as VC missed five straight 3-point attempts. The Pirates trailed 16-11 at the quarter break.
Ventura missed on two more triples to open the second quarter as Cypress built the advantage to 19-11. Martin ended a nearly five-minute scoreless stretch with a field goal at the 8:25 mark, but it would be VC's only score for the next six minutes. The Pirates missed another eight shots, six from range, before Del Castillo converted an offensive rebound for two with 2:19 on the clock. That made the score 22-15 for the Chargers, and Martin's deuce at the 1:48 mark ended the scoring for the half. Ventura trailed at intermission 22-17.
As the second half began, it seemed that the Pirates would heat up on the offensive end, but it did not happen. Del Castillo opened the half with two free throws, and Celeste Salazar hit a three from the right wing with an assist from Ohmie, but Ventura was still down five, 27-22. At the 6:56 mark, Ohmie hit Del Castillo inside for a lay-up to make it 29-24. At that point, the Pirate defense held Cypress without a score for six minutes, but the offense could not make any headway. The teams combined for 17 scoreless trips up and down the floor before Cypress was able to connect on an old-fashioned 3-point play with 43 seconds left in the quarter. Cypress also made a jumper to close the period and they led 34-24 after three.
Talitha Draper assisted a Martin lay-up to open the final period, and Del Castillo made a lay-up at the 7:43 mark to close the gap to six, 34-28. Cypress countered with a three, and they held the 37-28 advantage for the next three minutes. Del Castillo began one final push for the Pirates with a made shot with 3:23 on the clock, and followed with a lay-up to pull VC to within 37-32. Martin completed a 3-point play with 1:46 remaining to make it a 37-35 game, but Ventura could get no closer. VC missed the game-tying shot on the next possession, and was forced to foul the rest of the way, falling 41-35.
The loss ends a difficult season for the Pirates. The team was beset with injuries beginning in September, lasting throughout the entire season, and they never had a chance to be whole. The Thomas Fire created havoc across the entire community in December, and more injuries followed the Pirates into the new year.
But the season did have its share of highlights. The Pirates achieved a victory over San Bernardino Valley on Dec 10, making head coach Ned Mircetic the fastest collegiate women's basketball coach to the milestone in just 923 games. Then in February, Ventura won outright its 28th straight Western State Conference North Division championship.
So another season is in the books at VC, and the attention will soon turn to building the 2018-19 Pirates and continuing the We Play Hard tradition.