Hometown Ventura pushes Diablo Valley to the brink but Vikings hold on for 59-57 win

(1N) Diablo Valley 59, (4S) Ventura 57
CCCAA Women's Basketball Championship (quarterfinals)
Ventura College  March 15
Photo by Mike Baker
(1N) Diablo Valley 59, (4S) Ventura 57 CCCAA Women's Basketball Championship (quarterfinals) Ventura College • March 15 Photo by Mike Baker

CCCAA Basketball Championship Tournament Central
(live video, live stats, recaps, photos)

VENTURA - The Ventura College Athletic Event Center drew the largest, loudest crowd thus far at the CCCAA Women's Basketball Championship, as the hosting Ventura Pirates took the court wearing their black road uniforms as the fourth seed in the South, to battle the North's top-seeded Diablo Valley College Vikings.  After an intense 40 minutes of neck-and-neck basketball, it was the Vikings who were 59-57 victors on Friday and will advance to the semifinals. 

Diablo Valley's Sierra Smith scored a game high 22 points, flanked by a Leilani Moncrease double-double of 14 points and 12 rebounds plus five steals, and 10 assists by Daisha Abdelkader.

The two teams provided plenty of excitement for the fans on hand in a wild first half that included five lead changes.  Johnny Anderson opened up the scoring with a three-pointer for Diablo Valley, while Ladaesha Merriweather put Ventura on the board with a free throw to make it a 3-1 game in the second minute of play.  The Vikings lead peaked at 7 before the Pirates came back, Cece Quintino sending the crowd into a frenzy with a jumper to take the lead at the 3:28 mark.  Larryssa Russell made it even louder by drawing a foul on a three-point shot that fell in, completing the four-point play after Diablo Valley called timeout trailing by six.  Ventura would finish the quarter with a 16-14 lead.  

The second quarter was another back-and-forth affair with Diablo Valley capitalizing on some Pirate turnovers, eventually gaining a five-point lead with 2:44 left to play.  Ventura responded with threes by Victoria Maciel and Emma Larson to get back on top, taking a 32-31 lead into halftime.

The ping ponging continued in the third quarter with each team answering for the other's baskets, and neither able to gain more than a two point advantage for the first eight minutes.  The hosts were able to hinder the Viking offense with blocks by Robin Fallandy on consecutive possessions, but Zahria Hendrix put the Vikings up by three with a swish from behind the arc with two minutes to play in the period.  Diablo Valley finished the quarter with a 45-42 lead.

The Vikings stayed in the driver seat in the beginning of the fourth quarter, trading threes with Ventura and extending their lead to five points by way of a couple flashy layups by Sierra Smith and Zahria Hendrix.  Ventura pulled to within one point with a couple of layups off the glass by Madison Cvijanovich, but Diablo Valley capitalized on a late foul by Ventura's Merriweather, with Leilani Moncrease sinking both ensuing free throws.  

Ventura's Cece Quintino led her team with a 14 point, 13-rebound double-double.  Teammates Madison Cvijanovich and Victoria Maciel each dropped 11 points, and Ladaesha Merriweather snagged 11 rebounds in her 20 minutes on the floor.  Ventura's 18 turnovers proved costly, as Diablo Valley turned them into 18 points in the win.

(Brian Mellblom, CCCSIA)