The stakes were definitely high for the Pirates' women's basketball team Wednesday night in their regular season finale - win and they're in, lose and jump on the bubble. VC chose the former with a solid 72-57 victory over visiting Allan Hancock College at the Athletic Event Center. Talia Taufaasau led the way with 18 points, six rebounds, five assists and three blocks and Cece Quintino had 16 points for Ventura (19-7, 5-3). With the victory, the Pirates secure a good spot in the upcoming CCCAA SoCal Regional Playoffs.
With all the pomp of sophomore night and with the energy of over 100 girl scouts in attendance on Girl Scout Night, the Pirates came out with enthusiasm and intensity. The Bulldogs match Ventura bucket for bucket early as the teams tied five times with four lead changes in the first eight minute of play. Quintino hit back-to-back buckets, the second coming with 2:11 left in the opening quarter, as the Pirates went ahead 15-14. Victoria Maciel then hit a three, followed by in inside score and a 3-pointer by Madison Kast, as the Pirates took a 23-14 lead into the second period.
Ventura, who shot 10-16 in the first period (63 percent) cooled down significantly in the second. The Pirates scored just one field goal in the first five minutes of the stanza, but the defense held fast. Quintino hit a bucket at the 5:13 mark to make it 27-22, and Kast followed with an inside score on the next trip down the floor. LaDaesha Merriweather and Kast each scored late in the quarter as the Pirates took a 33-27 lead into halftime.
The Pirates, who lost at Hancock 18 days ago with a sub-par performance, made sure the outcome would be different with a charge early in the third period. Merriweather scored a lay-up off a Taufaasau assist on the opening possession, and Quintino's three the next trip down the floor prompted a Bulldog timeout. Taufaasau answered a Hancock deuce with her own bucket and the Pirates led 40-29 a little over a minute into the second half. The foes traded scored for the next few minutes until Yasmine Ahllamara cashed in Maciel's dime for three and a 14-point Pirate advantage, 49-35, with 4:48 on the clock. Quintino responded to a Bulldog charity toss with another three, giving VC its biggest lead of the night, 52-36. Kast later scored inside before Quintino and Kimora Pooler each scored in the final minute of the period for a 58-43 lead at the quarter break.
The Pirates answered every call in the final 10 minutes, never relinquishing their double-figure advantage. Taufaasau netted seven points over the final 10 minutes, and Pooler pulled in five of her 11 boards in the period. The Pirates also hit five of six free throws in the quarter to help salt the game away.
Kast finished with 11 points, seven rebounds, five blocked shots and three assists. Pooler, meanwhile, led the Pirates' Windex crew with 11 rebounds. Both Maciel and Pooler scored seven points in the game.
Ventura has a bye on the final day of the regular season and will not play again until the post-season. The Pirates, runners-up in the Western State Conference, are looking to secure a top-four seed in the playoffs, giving them the possibility of two home games to get to the CCCAA State Tournament. Playoff seedings will be announced on Sunday Feb. 23.
The VC Class of 2020, and their families, friends, mentors and teammates before Wednesday's win over Allan Hancock College at the Athletic Event Center.
(photo by Felix Cortez)