Ventura Coach Phil Mathews is in his first year as the Pirate skipper and already he has turned the basketball program around.
After holding off Moorpark, 66-55, at Ventura on Thursday night, the Pirates extended their win streak to six games. Ventura is 4-0 in conference--including a 77-74 overtime win at Taft--and 11-5 overall.
Last season, Ventura finished last in the Western State Conference.
Mathews made another wave Thursday--Ventura beat Moorpark for the first time since 1978. But after the game, Mathews spent most of his time with reporters talking about two guys who aren't even on his team.
"The big key for us was keeping Danny Berryman and Danny Camp in check," he said. "Those two are great players--Division I caliber players--and we were able to keep them in check."
Berryman and Camp are both among the top 20 scorers in the state, each averaging more than 20 points a game. So it is no small accomplishment for the Pirates to have held Berryman to 15 points and Camp to 13. Still, Berryman was the game's high scorer.
"Our defense did pretty well against the two best players in the conference," Mathews said.
The Pirates have some good players themselves. Kevin Venable, a 6-7 freshman forward, scored 14 points and hauled in a game-high seven rebounds. Center Oval Miller, 6-8, scored 14 points and sophomore guard Edward Whitmore had 13.
But more of a problem for the Raiders than Ventura's scoring attack, was its defense. The Pirates, with a height advantage, out-rebounded Moorpark, 30-27. Ventura also forced 12 turnovers, disrupting the Raider's offense.
"They played terrific defense," Moorpark Coach Al Nordquist said. "It forced us to go to our guys who aren't our best shooters. We just didn't get the job done. They have bigger people and their inside people are just more skilled than ours."
Ventura got off to a quick start against the Raiders, leading, 21-14, with five minutes left in the first half. The Pirates were able to improve that margin to 10 before the half.
Moorpark started the second half with Berryman and Darrin Channels both completing three-point plays, but couldn't get any closer than three points until seven minutes remained. The Pirates were up, 46-43.
Ventura scored five straight points before Moorpark could score again. The Raiders, possibly sensing desperation time, began fouling and the Pirates scored their last 14 points on one field goal and 12 free throws.
"They did a great job on our guys," Nordquist said. "They did everything they had to do to take us out of our game. We don't have the inside people to contain Kevin Venable and Oval Miller, so obviously they had the advantage there."
Even so, Moorpark's inside players did get most of their points in the second half, but by then it was too late.
Ventura was without the services of 6-8 sophomore forward Lawson Smith, who was at home ill. Lawson had started almost every game for the Pirates, but Mathews and company didn't seem to miss him.
Of Ventura's successful start this season, Mathews said: "We're taking them one game at a time. I expected us to be in the middle of the pack right now because we're so young. But I can live with 4-0."
Moopark is 2-2 in the WSC and 13-6 overall. The Raiders will play Oxnard Saturday at Hueneme High at 7:30 in another WSC match-up.