MARCH MADNESS: They will travel by car,...

MARCH MADNESS: They will travel by car, pickup trucks, even Winnebagos. Fact is the fans of the Ventura College Pirates are so driven, we wouldn't be surprised if they walked to Orange County for the state's junior college basketball championships (B1). . . . Call them spirited, call them insufferable, they're obsessed with seeing that the top-ranked Pirates win their second state title in the past decade. The Pirates play Fresno City at 8 tonight.

SHARPSHOOTER: Speaking of Hoop Dreams, UCLA senior Leon Palmisano will receive a check for a year's tuition and books during halftime of tonight's UCLA/Oregon game. . . . Palmisano, whose family lives in Ventura, won the schooling during a Feb. 5 contest where he hit a layup, free throw, a 21-footer and a half-court, 45-foot bomb. All in 30 seconds. The seventh of eight children, Palmisano's cheering section tonight will include his mother, Mary. But father, Joe, will be in Tennessee rooting for daughter, Michelle, a point guard at Vanderbilt. Leon's older sister, Teresa, plays pro basketball in Italy.

SAD SEARCH: Almost two years after it sank in the Santa Barbara Channel, taking with it a seven-man crew, the Vil Vana remains a mystery ship, its whereabouts unknown (B1). . . . The latest search, conducted in a two-man submarine, has ended with no trace of the 41-foot shrimp trawler. "The mystery continues," said Doug Privitt, the designer-builder of the tiny sub.

"SEEE YA!": And he will. After 20-plus years in radio, Steve Downes is now heard not only on the nationally syndicated "Rockline," but his new morning-drive gig on adult-rock KTYD-FM, the Santa Barbara station serving Ventura County (Ventura County Life, Page 8). . . . The Westlake resident's work schedule includes a 30-hour run when the shows fall back-to-back.

TODAY: Watch the finishing touches put on what is billed as the world's largest indoor sand sculpture--a towering, 275-ton tribute to the arts. The sculpture is being created in Center Court at The Oaks shopping center, 222 W. Hillcrest Drive, Thousand Oaks. More events, B2

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