In a battle between two of the state's top-ranked defenses, the Pirates' women's basketball team came up on the short end of a 52-46 decision against Mt. San Jacinto Sunday evening in the final of the VC-Optimist Club Holiday Classic. The Pirates, the state's No. 2 defense, and the Eagles, ranked No. 9 defensively, held each other below 23 percent shooting on the night. MSJC's decisive 71-48 edge on the boards proved to be the difference in the contest. Talia Taufaasau had 14 points, four assists, three blocks and two steals to lead Ventura (13-3).
It was a forgettable first quarter for both teams as they combined for 1-39 shooting in the period. The defenses reigned supreme as the teams were tied 4-4 at the quarter break.
Mt. San Jacinto went on a 5-0 run to begin the second period before Madison Kast scored the Pirates' first field goal at the 7:05 mark for a 9-6 deficit. The Eagles followed with a 7-0 run over the the next three minutes before Kimora Pooler cashed in Cece Quintino's assist. MSJC then stretched their lead nine points, 20-11, with 1:57 on the clock. Yasmine Ahllamara made a 3-pointer in the final minute to pull VC back to within 20-14 at halftime.
Ventura got untracked after the break, beginning with Taufaasau's lay-up at the 8:47 mark. Ahllamara hit another three and Quintino hit a mid-range jumper, but Mt. San Jacinto also got going offensively, and led 31-23 with 4:23 remaining. Emma Larson countered with a personal 5-0 run, making a lay-up and a three, and Taufaasau scored on a lay-up to pull Ventura within one, 31-30, at the 1:36 mark. The Eagles promptly hit a triple to hold off the Pirate surge, but Kast connected on a pair of inside buckets to make the score 36-34 at the end of the period.
Ventura had five field goal attempts and two free throws to tie and/or take the lead to begin the final quarter, but could not convert on one. MSJC finally hit a 3-pointer with 6:53 remaining, and Ahllamara hit the Pirates' first bucket of the stanza from range with 5:49 on the clock. The Eagles then opened up a small cushion with a pair of buckets and Ventura was never able to get back to within one possession for the remainder of the game. VC battled to the end, but came up on the short end of the 52-46 final score.
Taufaasau was the only Pirate in double figures scoring while Kast finished with nine points and seven rebounds. Larson and Ahllamara each finished with eight points and five boards and LaDaesha Merriweather pulled in a team-high 12 caroms.
With LA Pierce and Cuesta both canceling their seasons, Ventura's non-conference schedule will continue into the new year. The Pirates travel to West Hills College in Lemoore on Friday Jan. 3 before hosting LA Trade Tech on Saturday Jan. 11. VC opens Western State Conference North Division play on Wednesday Jan. 22 at Oxnard.