The dream season is complete, although at times it looked more like dream-on for the Ventura College women's basketball team.
The Pirates found themselves in a rough battle with Saddleback before prevailing, 69-62, to win the state championship Saturday night in front of 1,539 at the San Jose State Event Center Arena.
"Somebody told me that to win the state championship you have to keep knocking on the door," said Ned Mircetic, Ventura coach. "We went through the door today."
It's the first women's title for Ventura (35-0), which became the second women's team to win the championship undefeated. Riverside pulled off the feat in 1986.
Ventura lost in the semifinals last year and the Pirates had to hold off determined Saddleback (31-1) in the first final between unbeaten teams.
The game pitted the state's top two offensive teams. Ventura averaged 89.0 points during the regular season and Saddleback 79.4.
Guard Tori Anderson led Ventura with 20 points and teammate K.K. Johns, a freshman guard, scored 18.
"I went out in style," said Anderson, one of only two sophomores on the Ventura roster. "Ned took us [to the semifinals] last year but we didn't give [the title] to him. We gave it to him this year."
Johns and sophomore point guard Marina Torres, who was named the tournament's most valuable player, paced the Pirates down the stretch.
They combined for nine points in a three-minute span that gave Ventura a 64-54 lead with 1 minute 51 seconds to play.
Torres scored eight points and had 12 steals, as Saddleback committed 45 turnovers.
Saddleback rode its aggressive play into several leads in the first half, the largest at 26-18, 5:14 before intermission.
The Gauchos stayed in the game by pounding the boards and outrebounding Ventura, 57-44.
Ventura's last lead in the first half was 16-14 when Torres made a three-point basket from the right wing after a Saddleback turnover.
The Gauchos led, 42-33, early in the second half before Ventura rallied. The Pirates surged ahead, 47-46, on Anderson's layup after a steal and trailed only once more in the game.
Maureen Skehan scored 15 points and Shann Renken added 14 for the Gauchos. Cha-Ron Walker had 11 points and 16 rebounds.
"We played harder and I think we wanted it more toward the end," Anderson said.