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Lassen Stifles Ventura, 71-57, in Semifinals

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Lassen College crashed Ventura’s party and ended up having all the fun.

Lassen, the defending state champion, defeated Ventura, 71-57, Friday night in a semifinal game of the junior college women’s basketball state championships.

The Cougars (34-1) bid for their second consecutive state title at 8 tonight against Hancock (28-3), which beat Golden West, 81-61, in the other semifinal.

Tournament host Ventura finished with a 27-5 record. The loss against Lassen was the first for the Pirates since Dec. 19.

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Lassen got the job done with a tenacious defense and a well-balanced offense. Four Cougars--Melissa Batcheler with 18 points, Emma Witkowski (15), Margie Tillbrook (12) and Tessie Harrison (12)--scored in double figures.

The Cougars also outrebounded Ventura, 43-37, and outshot the Pirates, 38.8% (26 for 67) to 28.0% (16 for 57).

Ventura jumped to a 10-5 lead with 14 minutes 30 seconds to play in the first half on a layup by Tara Sanders and a turnaround jumper by center Nicole Ellis.

The Pirates repeatedly went to Ellis, a 6-footer from Buena High, in the low post. But Ellis hit only three of nine first-half shots against the hard-nosed Lassen defense that also limited guard Cori Herman to one three-point basket before intermission.

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In a 78-57 victory over College of the Siskiyous in the quarterfinals the previous night, Herman had 21 points in the first half on her way to a career-high 36 points.

But she couldn’t get going against the Cougars, who rallied behind the shooting of guard Margie Tillbrook (11 points in the first half) for a 36-26 edge at the half.

“They defended (Ellis) real well,” Ventura Coach Ned Mircetic said. “They are a great team. That’s why they are the state champs.”

Lassen picked up in the second half where it had left off in the first, outscoring the Pirates, 21-5, in the first eight minutes.

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Batcheler, a 5-foot-11 sophomore center, had six of the points, and Harrison had six on a pair of three-point shots. Harrison finished with four three-pointers.

Ellis ended up with 15 points and Herman scored 13. All 10 of Herman’s second-half points came on free throws.

Tournament Notes

Guard Rosa Mendez of Valley, the Western State Conference South Division player of the year, will be joined by guard Tamara Pacheco of Moorpark and forward Sasha Garrison of Antelope Valley and Cori Herman of Ventura on the South team that will play in the third annual North-South women’s all-star game at 3 today. A Southern California regional men’s game between Compton (21-12) and Ventura (34-1) follows at 5:30 p.m.

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