The No.2-ranked VC women's basketball team held off No. 6 East Los Angeles Saturday evening for a 60-56 victory in the semifinals of the Wild West Shootout at West Los Angeles College in Culver City. Madison Kast had 15 points to lead Ventura (2-0) and Yasmine Ahllamara netted 10 points in the effort. VC opened up as much as a 12-point lead early lead in the second half before outlasting the Huskies in the end. The Pirates advance to the tournament finals on Sunday Nov. 10 against MiraCosta College.
It was a tight game for nearly the entire first half, fitting a contest between two of Southern California's four teams in last year's Elite Eight. There were six ties and seven lead changes in the opening 20 minutes as the two heavyweights battled on the hardwoods. The Huskies got on the board first, and Ventura matched them shot for shot. Ahllamara gave the Pirates their first lead, 9-8, with a 3-pointer at the 5:06 mark of the first quarter. After ELAC retook the lead, Emma Larson scored on a drive inside and Ahllamara hit another triple to put Ventura back ahead. Kimora Pooler's bucket with 26 seconds on the clock gave the Pirates a 16-15 lead at the quarter break.
Pooler scored two more buckets early in the second period to open up a 20-17 advantage for VC. After a husky 3-pointer, Alyssandra Lacanilao and Talia Taufaasau scored consecutive buckets for a 4-point margin. The Pirates led 27-26 at the 3:20 mark of the quarter when they went on an 8-0 run to take control as the half came to an end. Ahllamara drove for a deuce and hit a pair of free throws before Lacanilao nailed a 3-pointer from the left wing, and took the foul, converting the charity shot for a 4-point play to close the half. Ventura led 35-26 at the break.
Kast hit a three to open the second half, making it an 11-0 Pirate run, giving VC a 12-point advantage, 38-26. The lead would hover around double figures for the next five minutes of game time before East Los Angeles staged a comeback to get back into the game. Kast's lay-up off an offensive rebound gave Ventura a 44-33 advantage at the 7:01 mark of the period. The teams went scoreless for nearly two minutes when the Huskies mad a lay-up to begin a 7-0 run. ELAC made a 3-pointer at he 3:22 mark to pull to within 44-40, and the Pirates responded with another Kast two with 2:17 remaining in the period. Kast closed out the Pirates' scoring in the stanza, and VC led 48-43 heading to the fourth quarter.
Both defenses were strong in the final period as it too East LA over three minutes to get on the board with a free throw and a lay-up to cut the deficit to 48-46. Lacanilao had the answer for the Pirates, however, turning a Victoria Maciel assist in to a made 3-pointer from the right hand corner. The Huskies continued the comeback with the next four points, cutting the Pirate lead to one, 51-50 when Maciel made another key play with a lay-up off an inbounds play under the basket. Maciel then assisted Taufaasau's 3-pointer on the next possession, stretching the lead back to six, 56-50, with 3:45 remaining. East LA made three of four free throws on the next two trips down the court before Kast scored inside, off another Maciel dime. East LA cut the margin to 58-56 with 12 seconds remaining, but Taufaasau calmly sank two free throws to put the game out of reach in the final seconds.
Lacanilao nearly hit double figures with nine points in the game. Maciel finished the game with six assists to lead VC while LaDaesha Merriweather had a team-high seven rebounds. Pooler finished with eight points and six boards.
With the win, Ventura advances to the tournament's championship game for the first time since 2016. They will take on MiraCosta College at 4:00 pm for the title on Sunday Nov. 10.