They presented Philip Mathews, Ventura College men's basketball coach who turned 43 on Saturday, a birthday cake before his team's game against Moorpark in the semifinals of the Ventura tournament.
After 40 minutes of play, Mathews celebrated some more as the Pirates beat Moorpark, 72-65, and advanced to the championship game against Antelope Valley tonight at 7.
"I think we finally put a game together," Mathews said. "Moorpark came out and really ran their offense very well. But I think our power took over in the end."
Moorpark (4-2) trailed, 66-60, with 1 minute 23 seconds to play but couldn't pull any closer. The Raiders will face Santa Barbara in the third-place game today at 5.
The Pirates (5-1), who posted their fifth victory in a row, twice led by as many as 12 points, 22-10 and 62-50, but Moorpark stayed close behind the shooting of Paul Foster and Sean Martin. Foster, a freshman center, scored 17 points and had a team-high eight rebounds. Martin, a sophomore guard, finished with 18 points.
"We battled them," Moorpark Coach Al Nordquist said. "Basically, we just played hard and took the opportunities when they were there."
Ventura, and particularly Brandon Jessie, didn't miss their opportunities either.
Jessie, a 6-5 sophomore forward, scored a game-high 19 points. Eleven of those came in the second half. Teammate D'Mitri Rideout, a sophomore guard, finished with 18 points.
Ventura jumped to an 18-8 lead with 8:31 remaining in the first half on consecutive three-point baskets by Tony Smith and Joey Ramirez, but Foster made a free throw and a layup to cut the lead to 28-21 with 25 seconds to play before halftime.
Ventura center Michael Tate, who had five points and five rebounds, made a short jumper on an inbounds pass to give Ventura a 30-21 edge at the half.
In other Ventura tournament games:
Antelope Valley 97, Santa Barbara City 73--The Marauders, behind the long-range shooting of Danny Prince, rallied from a two-point halftime deficit in a semifinal game.
Antelope Valley (5-0) will play Ventura tonight at 7 for the championship.
Prince, a 6-1 sophomore point guard from Quartz Hill High, scored a game-high 31 points. He converted seven of the 12 three-point shots attempted by the Marauders.
Guard Orville Turner contributed 21 points off the bench for Antelope Valley and forward Marcus Cross had 20.
Adam Sjovold led the Vaqueros (3-2) with 12 points and Michael Lewis had 11.
The Marauders broke open the game with a 20-4 run early in the second half to take a 56-40 lead. Later in the half, they went on a 12-0 surge for a 90-57 advantage with 4:35 to play.
Compton 97, Oxnard 90--Despite 24 points from Wendell Nunnery and 20 from Larry Reed, the Condors (1-4) fell in a consolation semifinal game.
It was the second consecutive 20-point performance for Nunnery, a 6-foot-3 freshman forward from Hueneme High. He had 28 points in an 83-75 loss to Moorpark in the first round Friday.
Freshman guard Craig Slaughter added 18 points for Oxnard and freshman forward Ramon Franklin had 10 rebounds.
Sophomore forwards Wil Weir (26 points) and Michael Whittaker (23 points) led Compton.