The Ventura High girls' basketball team went further than ever before, but the Cougars fell a step short of the state championship game after falling to top-seeded Brea-Olinda, 58-51, Saturday for the second time in a week in the Southern California regional Division II final.
Brea-Olinda (32-1), the state Division III champion in 1989, will be making its third appearance in a state championship game, against Hayward Moreau (30-2) at the Oakland Coliseum on Saturday.
The Lady Cats beat Ventura, 50-42, in the Southern Section II-AA Division title game last week.
Seventh-seeded Ventura (25-5), an at-large entry, had to play two games on the road to advance to Saturday's game at the Sports Arena. Ventura upset second-seeded El Cajon Valley in the first round Tuesday and Bakersfield North on Thursday.
"I don't think that the traveling affected us at all," Ventura Coach Glenn Gray said. "We're a good team. Everybody worked hard and we have nothing to be ashamed of."
Brea-Olinda, which has won 87 of its past 89 games, built a 43-38 lead after three quarters and scored the first five points of the fourth period to take a 48-38 advantage with five minutes remaining.
The Lady Cats extended their lead to 57-42 with 1 minute 55 seconds to play before Ventura made a run in the final minute.
Denise Rea led Ventura with 16 points but was limited to three in the second half. Wendy Ward had 12 points and five assists and Cori Herman added 11 points.
Freshman guard Nicole Erickson scored 15 points, making four of six from three-point range, to lead four Brea-Olinda players in double figures. Jody Anton, Katie Bauer and Jinelle Williams each had 10 points. Anton and Williams combined for 34 of the Lady Cats' points in the first meeting against Ventura.
"Our role players did not make any shots last week," Brea-Olinda Coach Mark Trakh said. "I think that was the difference today. They gave the other players a boost and our man-to-man defense started to wear them down in the fourth period."
Herman, who had 19 points in the first meeting against Brea-Olinda, thought otherwise.
"Their defense didn't bother us," Herman said. "What really gave us trouble was our shooting. We went cold and just couldn't get anything to drop."
Brea-Olinda made 11 of 19 shots in the second half (57.9%) and 22 of 45 (48.9%) in the game. Ventura was eight of 30 (26.4%) in the final 24 minutes and 18 of 54 (33.3%) in the game.
"We didn't score," Gray said. "It's hard to stay in a game with just defense. We had the shots, but we didn't put it in the hole."
Ventura took a 31-30 lead on a three-point basket by Herman to open the third period, but Brea-Olinda went on a 5-0 run to take a lead it would not relinquish.