It is a good bet that a significant amount of attention is being paid to free-throw drills at Ventura College this week. And make that double at Allan Hancock.
Ventura squandered an 11-point lead against Hancock in a key Western State Conference game last week, largely because of poor free-throw shooting.
Then, trailing by three points with only three minutes remaining, the Pirates took advantage of poor free-throw shooting by their opponents to rally for an 83-80 victory. The difference: Ventura made 19 of 32 free throws. Hancock was 16 of 28.
Tony Regueira of Hancock missed four free throws in the last three minutes of the game. Tony Walker of Ventura made both ends of a one-and-one situation with 33 seconds left to break an 80-80 tie, then Cedric Ceballos made 1 of 2 free throws with nine seconds left for the final margin of victory.
"We could have put them away early," Ventura Coach Phil Mathews said. "But we made the shots at the end--when we really needed them."
Hancock, 18-2 overall and 3-1 in the WSC, came into the game ranked No.3 in the state. Ventura, the defending state champion, had a record of 16-7, 4-0 in conference games.
It was a key win, to be sure, but Mathews stopped well short of exaggerating its importance. "It's just one win over a pretty good team," he said. "It's just another league game--something we had to do and we did it."
As usual, Ventura was led by Ceballos, a 6-6 All-American forward who had 26 points and 10 rebounds. Wally Carter, a transfer from Pepperdine, had 15 points, including 11 in the second half. The Pirates play at Bakersfield tonight and at Santa Monica on Saturday.
Not just another Smith: Oxnard might have a losing record, but the Condors might also have the best guard in the WSC in Kenny Smith, who is averaging 22.1 points, 4 rebounds and 4 assists a game.
"Kenny is a dynamic ballplayer," Coach Bruce Furuya said. "Unfortunately for the team concept, people tend to stand around and watch him instead of getting open."
Smith, a 5-10 sophomore from Las Vegas who is being recruited by USC, Baylor and Auburn among others, had 36 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists in a 99-90 loss to Hancock and 25 points in a 75-69 loss to Santa Barbara last week.
Oxnard, which plays at county-rival Moorpark tonight, is 7-13 overall and 1-3 in the WSC.
Home-court advantage: Oxnard College has played most of its home games at the Camarillo Boys Club, but the Condors may have a home court of their own in about three years. Blueprints for a new Oxnard gym are being mailed to Sacramento this week for approval.
"Hopefully, if everything goes smoothly, we'll have a home in a couple of years," Furuya said.
A full house: The more the Ventura High varsity wins, the more exposure its junior varsity gets at home games. It's all a matter of fans getting to the Cougar gym early enough to get a seat.
A packed house of 1,400 was on hand for Ventura's game against Santa Barbara last week, and it was standing-room only by the time the JV game was halfway through.
"People love a winner," said Chris Taylor, Ventura's coach. "They're really coming out. It's great experience for those junior varsity guys. It gets them used to playing under conditions they'll see at the varsity level."
Ventura's varsity ran its record to 14-0 by defeating Santa Barbara, 64-61. A three-point play by Nathan Hantgin with two seconds left provided the margin of victory.
The Cougars trailed by six starting the final period, but outscored the Dons, 25-16. Chris Hantgin led Ventura with 20 points.
Still on top: Santa Paula, the top-ranked soccer team in the Southern Section's 1-A Division, posted its most important win of the season last week, 2-1, over defending 1-A champion Agoura in a Frontier League game.
The Cardinals trailed early, but rallied to tie the score, 1-1, on a goal by Joey Magdaleno. Marco Sanchez, an all-county receiver in football, scored the game-winner for Santa Paula in the second half.
Sanchez, a defensive specialist, scored on an indirect free kick from 35 yards out. "It was a real nice shot," Coach Joe Magdaleno said, "but I'm not sure he could ever do it again."
Magdaleno said he brings Sanchez up to the offensive end during corner kicks or free kicks because of his height (6-1) and ability to make header shots.
"With his jumping ability, he's about a head taller than most soccer players," Magdaleno said, "so we try and get him the ball."
Sanchez scored against Agoura using his foot.
Santa Paula is 10-3 overall, 3-0 in league matches. Agoura fell to 1-2 in league play, and trails both Santa Paula and Calabasas (2-1) in the standings.
That hurts: Stacey Cvijanovich, a former basketball standout at Santa Clara High now at Nevada Las Vegas, will be out of action six to eight weeks because of a broken thumb.
The sophomore guard suffered the injury against Cal State Fullerton last week. He had played in all 14 UNLV games, averaging 3.9 points, 1.8 rebounds and 1.8 assists a game.
Bombs away: Maurice Pullum, whose hot shooting helped Ventura College to the state junior college basketball title last season, already has set a record for three-point shooting at UC Riverside.
Pullum, who leads the Highlanders in scoring with a 14.1 average, has made 43 of 80 three-point attempts. The previous school record was held by Tony Holt, who made 26 last season. At his current rate, Pullum also could break the school's team record of 68 three-pointers--by himself.
Bill Turner, another Ventura transfer, is starting at forward for Riverside and averaging 9.9 points and 5.1 rebounds.