Buoyed by a 12-2 run early in the game, and a stout defensive effort throughout, the Pirates' women's basketball team posted a hard-fought 56-47 victory over Chabot in the opening round of the Tom Gilcrest Invitational at the College of the Sequoias in Visalia on Thursday. Kimora Pooler was outstanding in the paint with 16 points and nine rebounds while LaDaesha Merriweather was 5-6 from the floor leading to her double double of 10 points and 10 rebounds. Talia Taufaasau had 12 points and six rebounds for VC (7-0). Cece Quintino finished with 10 boards and six assists.
Ventura began the night with a strong 12-2 run. Madison Kast opened with a 3-pointer from the top of the key just six seconds into the game, and Pooler followed a pair of Chabot free throws with an old-time 3-point play for a 6-2 advantage. She then cashed in a Quintino dime and Merriweather scored on a turn-around jumper. Taufaasau hit a basket to close the run for a 12-2 VC advantage with 3:50 remaining in the opening period. The Gladiators came back, however, with five straight points before Merriweather ended the quarter with a bucket for a 14-7 VC lead.
Scores were difficult to come by for both teams in the second stanza. They traded baskets slowly throughout the quarter, with the margin remaining the same at halftime with a 23-16 Pirate advantage.
Chabot opened the second half with a 5-0 run to close to within 23-21 at the 7:36 mark of the third quarter. Victoria Maciel stopped the skid with a big 3-pointer from the right wing off a Taufaasau assist at the 6:03 mark, and Taufaasau drove the left side on the next possession for a deuce to restore the 7-point margin. Pooler nailed a 10-foot jumper from the left baseline from Maciel's pass, and Quintino hit for a 3-point play off an inbounds pass from Yasmine Ahllamara to complete a 10-0 run with 3:43 left in the period. Kast made another triple at the 1:14 mark, and Merriweather scored at the buzzer as VC held a 40-33 edge at the quarter break.
The teams continued to grind the game out possession by possession through the final stanza. Chabot pulled to within 46-43 with 3:17 remaining in the game, but Ahllamara hit a key shot from range on the next possession to open up a six point cushion. Taufaasau made four straight free throws to open up a 53-45 margin with 1:25 left, and Merriweather, Pooler and Quintino combined for nine defensive rebounds in the period, all seemingly coming on key possessions. Pooler's free shot in the last minute set the final 56-47 margin.
The Pirates held the Gladiators 27 points under their season average offensively, and limited Chabot to 25 percent shooting from the floor (15-60). VC also outrebounded their opponents 47-37.
Ventura advances to the tournament semifinals for the fourth straight year, and for the fourth straight year they will face the hosts College of the Sequoias Giants. The Pirates have dropped their three previous semifinal meetings with the Giants. VC and CoS will tip-off Friday Dec. 6 at 7:00 pm at Porter Field House in Visalia.