The VC women's basketball team escaped with a 59-57 victory over visiting West Los Angeles College Saturday night in the opening round of the SoCal Crossover Tournament. Cece Quintino led the Pirates (14-6) with 16 points, seven rebounds and six assists while Victoria Maciel totaled 14 points with seven boards. With the victory, Pirate head coach Ned Mircetic ties legendary Santa Clara High School boys coach Lou Cvijanovich with 829 wins as the winningest basketball coaches in Ventura County history.
The Pirates started out red hot from the floor, hitting 53 percent of their shots (9-17) from the floor. The Pirates jumped out to an early lead when Talia Taufaasau assisted a bucket by Maciel, then hit a three off a Quintino dime. Quintino followed with a score at the 7:54 mark of the first quarter for the 7-0 advantage. The Wildcats came back to tie the score at 11 with 4:22 on the clock when VC went on a 12-0 run. Taufaasau hit a charity toss before LaDaesha Merriweather scored inside from a Maciel helper. Quintino nailed a trey and a deuce before assisting a lay-up by Colleen Clow. Quintino closed the run with a jumper before West LA hit a three at the first quarter buzzer. Ventura led at the quarter break 23-14.
The Wildcats followed with a pair of free throws to start the second quarter before Taufaasau hit a 3-pointer for the Pirates. West LA then went on an 8-0 run over the next 2:39 before Maciel's shot from range stopped the bleeding for VC. West LA then scored the next seven points to take a 31-29 lead with 3:09 remaining in the half. The teams went scoreless for the next two minutes until Maciel hit a three off a Quintino assist with 57 seconds remaining. Then Maciel closed the half with a runner as the Pirates led 34-31 at the break.
The cold shooting continued for Ventura in the third quarter, as West LA managed a 40-37 lead 2:30 into the period. Another Maciel jumper followed by a free throw from Madison Cvijanovich tied the game at 40, then Quintino scored five straight points to give VC a 45-40 advantage at the 4:20 mark. The Pirates led 46-42 heading into the final period.
The teams traded scores for much of the first part of the fourth quarter before Cvijanovich nailed a 3-pointer for a six point Ventura advantage, 53-47, with 5:49 left to play. Cvijanovich hit a runner, and Merriweather hit one of two free throws for a 56-49 lead with 2:57 on the clock before West LA made their final push. The Pirates had a turnover and two missed shots as the Wildcats climbed back to within one, 56-55, before Merriweather scored on a lay-up to augment the cushion with 51 seconds left. Taufaasau hit a free throw with 21 seconds remaining to make the lead four, and after a West LA score and two missed free throws by VC, a tense 13 seconds followed. West LA had a drive for a game-tying shot, but it, and a putback fell short, and the Pirates escaped with the victory.
Taufaasau finished with 13 points, five boards and three assists for the Pirates. Merriweather had seven points and nine rebounds while Cvijanovich scored six points with seven caroms.
With Saturday's victory, Pirate head coach Ned Mircetic now has 829 career wins, tied with legendary Santa Clara High School boys coach Lou Cvijanovich for most wins by a basketball coach in Ventura County. Coach "C", who passed away in November, retired with an 829-261 record while Mircetic is now 829-133. Mircetic's first win as a basketball coach came in 1982 as the frosh/soph coach at St. Bonaventure HS against Coach Cvijanovich, who was filling in with his frosh/soph team at Santa Clara. Many of Coach "C"'s family members, including his wife Martha, were at the game to watch his granddaughter Madison play for VC. Coincidentally, Mircetic's mother and Cvijanovich's parents all came from Gospic, Coratia, a small town in western Croatia with a population of 6,575.
Ventura advances to the semifinals of the "White" Bracket of the SoCal Crossover Tournament hosted by El Camino College. They will next travel to Pasadena on Wednesday Jan. 9 for a 6:00 pm date with the Lancers in the semifinals. VC will host LA Trade tech of Palomar on Saturday Jan. 12 in the final game of the tournament. There will also be a 4:00 pm game that day at the AEC.