Huntington Beach High girls' basketball Coach Russ McClurg figured his team would face a tall order in Ventura, the Oilers' CIF Southern Section semifinal opponent Tuesday.
He was right.
Visiting Ventura worked its inside game and went to its veterans throughout the Division 1A showdown, and the second-seeded Cougars pulled away to score a 60-41 victory over the third-seeded Oilers.
Huntington led early but the Cougars, led in the middle by 6-foot-1 senior center Cassandra McCambridge, 5-11 senior forward Marki Meyer and 5-9 senior forward Kayalin Akens-Matthews-Irby, were able to build a double-digit midway through the second quarter. They maintained no less than a seven-point lead the remainder of the game.
The Ventura trio combined for 44 points.
"I think their size bothered us," McClurg said. "They did a good job with their high-low, high-low, and with their cutters, and we kind of knew it coming into it.
"They have four senior [starters] to our two, and I think that was the difference in this game, their maturity."
Guard Paola Roa, one of two senior starters for Huntington, scored 11 of the Oilers' first 13 points. She went on to score a game-high 21 points.
Huntington's other senior starter, guard Stephanie Louie, scored 10 points. Huntington had scored only two points in the first seven minutes of the second quarter but Louie gave the Oilers a late scoring push by hitting a pair of three-point shots in the final 37 seconds of the half, her final one a long shot to beat the halftime buzzer which pulled the Oilers to within 28-21 at the half.
Ventura, champion of the Channel League, opened the second half with a 9-3 run to build its lead to 37-25 with 3:16 left in the third quarter and was on its way to its 18th-consecutive victory.
Huntington, which had a 17-game win streak snapped, would get no closer than 11 points the rest of the way.
"Absolutely the biggest thing we had talked about coming into this game, was their pressure," Ventura Coach Ann Larson said. "It came down to our bigs against their pressure. We were scarred of their two players (Roa, Louie) who did everything they could to help them tonight. We respected them and what Russ [McClurg] does."
Huntington set up Tuesday's semifinal game by going to Burbank Saturday and taking down sixth-seeded and Pacific League champ Burroughs, 66-52. Roa also had a game-high for points with 23, Louie scored 17 and sophomore guard Sammy Gray scored nine points.
In their second postseason game Feb. 26, the Oilers went on the road and upended 14th-seeded and Golden West League winner Westminster, 51-35. Roa had a game-best 18 points, Gray scored 13 and Louie had 11 points.
Huntington, which won the Sunset League championship, its second league title in three years, finished the year 26-3.
Huntington was seeking its second trip in three years to a Southern Section final.
"It's been a great season," McClurg said. "My kids played hard and in nine out of the last 10 years, we have won 20 games. I'm really happy with the season. Disappointed in this loss, but happy with the season."
The top four seeds in Division 1A reached the semifinal round. Ventura (28-2) will be making its third title-game appearance under Larson when the Cougars take on top-seeded Camarillo in a 6:30 p.m. final Saturday at Azusa Pacific University. The Cougars won a division title in 2002 and finished runner-up in 2005.
Camarillo was a 61-36 winner of fourth-seeded Newbury Park (Marmonte League champ) in Tuesday's other semifinal. The Scorpions have won their four playoff games by an average of 24 points.
Ocean View girls' basketball eliminated
Ocean View fell behind by 14 points at halftime at South Pasadena Feb. 26 and the 12th-seeded Seahawks were upended, 51-29, by the fourth-seeded Tigers in a CIF Southern Section Division 3A quarterfinal.
South Pasadena (Rio Hondo League No. 2) was eliminated Saturday when the Tigers dropped a 50-43 semifinal game to top-seeded Inglewood.
Inglewood (Ocean League No. 2) and second-seeded Santa Margarita (Trinity League at-large) will meet for the Division 3A title at 6 p.m. Friday at Godinez High.
Edison boys fall in quarterfinals
Sixth-seeded Edison led Temecula Valley with under three minutes to play Friday, but the third-seeded Golden Bears were able to pull out 68-63 road victory in a CIF Southern Section Division 1A quarterfinal game.
Junior guard Justin Simon scored 21 of his game-high 30 points including the driving tying layup that tied the score with 2:28 remaining to wipe out a 59-57 Edison lead, the last of the game for the Chargers.
A steal and dunk by Simon would give the Golden Bears (26-4) a 63-59 advantage with 1:44 to go.
Edison had a chance to tie the score but missed a three-point shot attempt trailing, 66-63, with 22 seconds left. The Golden Bears then hit two free throws with 13 seconds left to seal the win.
The Chargers hit eight three-point shots in the opening half, six coming off the fiery arm of junior guard Jake Haar, who hit three in each quarter. Haar hit from up top and deep in the corners in the half. Late in the half, he re-entered the game and proceeded to hit a three, then junior guard Brae Ivey hit a three off a kick-out from junior guard AJ Garrity, and two free throws by Ivey capped an 8-0 Edison run that took the Chargers to the only double-digit lead of the game at 29-18.
Edison, the second-place team from the Sunset League and making its second trip to the quarterfinal round for the second time in four years, took a big hit when Garrity went down under the Temecula Valley basket midway through the fourth quarter. The junior appeared to have twisted his ankle had to be carried back to the Edison bench.
Garrity, who hit a pair of three-point shots and finished with six points, exited with midway through the fourth quarter with Edison clinging to a 59-57 lead.
"Losing him hurt us," Edison Coach Rich Boyce said, adding after the game that Garrity would have his ankle checked out. "We lost a good ball handler and some height that we need out there. But, despite losing AJ, our guys just kept battling."
Edison finished with 13 three-pointers, overall. Haar, behind seven three-pointers, led the Chargers in scoring with 24 points followed by Ivey with 20 points.
"We did a great job in the first half of moving the ball around, of kicking it out to the open man," Boyce said. "We hit some big shots and Jake [Haar] was on target."
Edison led, 32-28, at the half.
"You have to give Edison credit," Temecula Valley Coach Kyle Armstrong said. "They came out and played the type of game they had wanted. We understood that they would be taking a lot of [three-point] shots. That's how they shoot the ball, and they were making them."
Edison ended its year 23-6.
"We had an outstanding season," Boyce said. "People told us at the start of the year that we'd be the third-best team in the league and win 17, maybe 18 games. But our kids were fighters. I told them that you earn what you get, and they worked hard to have a great season."
The 2013-14 season has been one of many "firsts" for Temecula Valley, Armstrong said.
"This team has set the school record for most wins (26) in a season, we had our first undefeated league season, and we are now making our first trip to the semifinals," he said, stumbling in his attempt to get out the word, "semifinal, " before giving a short laugh. "We've never been before. That's why I can't even say the word correctly."
Temecula Valley was knocked out of postseason play Tuesday when seventh-ranked and visiting Villa Park (Century League No. 4) edged the Golden Bears, 57-56, in a division semifinal.
Villa Park will meet fourth-seeded ML King (Southwestern League No. 4) in the Division 1A final at 4 p.m. Saturday at The Honda Center.