History was theirs for the making and they grabbed their little piece of it. By a whisker.
The Ventura College Pirates shanghaied their second consecutive--and fourth total--state men's basketball championship with an 82-81 squeaker over West Valley of Saratoga before 3,539 on Saturday night at the San Jose State Event Center Arena.
The Pirates (34-2) beat West Valley (31-3) in a rematch of last year's title game and became the fourth team to repeat as champion but the first to do it under two different coaches. Phil Mathews, now at the University of San Francisco, coached the team for 10 seasons, winning three titles, and Virgil Watson took over the program this season.
"This is an unbelievable feeling," Watson said. "The guys hung tough, together, through all the changes. . . . They upheld the tradition of the program."
Ventura also became the first junior college to win men's and women's state championships in the same year. The Ventura women secured their half of the double with a 69-62 victory over Saddleback earlier in the evening.
Sophomore center Curtis Ganes scored a team-high 23 points, 17 in the second half, when the Pirates needed a spark after trailing, 65-54, with 13 minutes 8 seconds to go.
Ganes, who was named to the all-tournament team, rallied the Pirates with a series of short turnaround jumpers to put Ventura ahead, 66-65, at the 9:30 mark.
He scored the last eight points for Ventura, including what proved the game-winner with 2:29 remaining.
"I was just trying to make sure my team was going to win," Ganes said. "I've been using that shot for a long time so I had to go back to it."
West Valley had one last chance to win the game but missed three desperation shots from close range as time ran out.
Ventura forward Hakeem Ward, who was named the tournament's most valuable player, scored 19 points, and point guard Jamal Cobbs finished with 15 points. Ward also had nine rebounds.
West Valley guard Andy Newman, who made seven of 12 three-point baskets, scored 28 points.
West Valley got out of the gate in a hurry to take a 12-2 lead and increased it to 37-25 with 5:45 left in the half on a turnaround jumper by Jamaal Sanford.
Ventura rallied to close the gap to 44-41 at halftime on Ward's dunk and Shannon Taylor's three-point basket just before the buzzer.