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Fresh Legs Carry Ventura Past Santa Monica

TIMES STAFF WRITER

It’s quite a luxury Ventura College basketball Coach Virgil Watson has.

Any time his five on the court are tired or aren’t getting the job done, he can throw out five more players who are just as good.

That’s probably why Ventura is ranked No. 1 in the state.

And it’s also why the Pirates held off a feisty Santa Monica team, 81-71, Wednesday night in a Western State Conference intradivision game at Santa Monica College.

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The key moment in the game came with 8 minutes 1 second to play. The Corsairs had rallied from a deficit that had been as large as 13 points to pull within one, 60-59.

But Watson called a timeout, sent out five sets of fresh legs, and the Pirates made three-point shots on three successive trips down the floor, pushing the lead back to 10.

“We can go pretty deep,” said Watson, a former Pirate assistant in his first year as head coach replacing Philip Mathews. “That is why we have the kind of record and the kind of program we have.”

Ventura (5-0) kept the lead at seven points or more the rest of the way.

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“We just weren’t ready for them,” Santa Monica Coach John McMullen said. “I don’t know if we ever will be.

“They are a very seasoned club, but it’s four months until the final eight, so maybe we can catch up to them.”

Santa Monica (4-1), 14th-ranked in the state, made several runs at the Pirates, but never took the lead. Ventura, which got points from 11 players, always came up with a run when it needed one.

“We just have a group of guys that really hates to lose games,” Watson said. “And if you just put the right combination out there, they will really work hard to win.”

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Damian Cantrell led the Pirates with 21 points and seven rebounds. Gerald Zimmerman added 15 points, including three three-pointers, and seven rebounds.

Damon Ollie, a sophomore from North Hollywood High, led the Corsairs with 17 points. Andre Stanton added 16 points, including four three-pointers.

The Corsairs seemed to be hanging their hopes of upsetting the Pirates on three-point shooting in the early going.

Santa Monica made five three-pointers in the first half, but still trailed the high-powered Pirates the entire half.

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Ventura pulled away with a nine-point run late in the first half, boosting its lead to 36-23. After the Corsairs cut the deficit to six, Ventura scored the last six points of the half to go into the locker room up by 12.

Ventura, the defending state champion, has won 13 games in a row dating back to last season.


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