Ventura Turns Up Heat, Ices Saddleback, 69-62, for Title

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Saddleback failed to hang onto the ball and as a result the Gauchos never got their hands on the women's basketball state championship trophy they were so close to earning Saturday.

The Gauchos, ranked second in the state, led by nine early in the second half, only to lose to No. 1 Ventura, 69-62, in the title game at San Jose State Event Center Arena.

It was the first appearance in the championship game for both teams.

"I'm proud of all of our players," Saddleback Coach Jack Single said. "Ventura is an excellent ball club. I thought we played them tooth and nail."

Saddleback (31-1) was done in because it couldn't withstand the intense pressure Ventura (35-0) put on the ball the entire game.

Saddleback turned it over 45 times, including 25 in the second half. Marina Torres, a guard, had 12 steals and was selected the tournament's most valuable player. She also was the co-state player of the year.

"We tried everything we could possibly try," Single said. "We had worked on a couple of different things in practice but they aren't 35-0 because they don't have the ability to adjust to things."

Early in the second half, Ventura had to adjust to being behind.

Saddleback used a half-court trap to build a 30-24 halftime lead.

Saddleback's Cha-Ron Walker scored on a short jumper to give the Gauchos a 36-27 lead with 18 minutes 24 seconds to play. Walker scored Saddleback's first eight points of the second half and finished with 11 points and 16 rebounds.

In building the lead, Saddleback took much of the steam out of Ventura's supporters, which made up most of the crowd of about 1,000.

But Ventura maintained the pressure and Saddleback started to wear down and got into foul trouble. Shanna Renken, a freshman forward, was assessed her fourth foul with 15:25 left and sat most of the next 10 minutes.

Ventura's comeback was led by Tori Anderson and Kadaiya Johns. Anderson scored 10 of her game-high 20 in the second half. She had a driving short jumper to put Ventura ahead for good, 49-48, with 10:05 left.

Johns had 18 points, 13 in the second half.

Saddleback had a chance to tie it at 55, but LaShieka Henderson missed a free throw that would have completed a three-point play with 5:58 left.

Ventura then went on a 9-0 run and led, 64-54, with about two minutes left. Maureen Skehan finished with 15 points for Saddleback despite missing about three minutes because of an ankle injury. Renken had 14.

Walker and Skehan were selected to the all-tournament team.

"We felt our guards could get the ball down the floor but they couldn't," Single said. "That's what surprised me."

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Notes

Anthony Carter of Saddleback scored 19 points but the South lost to the North, 132-108, in the men's all-star game Saturday. . . . Irvine Valley's Jennifer Nakanishi had three points and Orange Coast's Jamie Shine had two as the South lost to the North, 100-69, in the women's all-star game.

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