Coach Phil Mathews could have been angry, but he preferred to be philosophical about his Ventura College basketball team's failure to qualify for the state junior college championships for the second year in a row.
"We did not make it this time, but we were beaten by a better team on that one particular night," Mathews said. "Otherwise, we had an excellent year."
Cerritos knocked Ventura out of a state finals' berth with a 103-91 victory Saturday in the Southern California regional championship. The loss ended Ventura's quest to return to the state finals for the second time in three years.
Mathews said Cerritos played a "career game" to defeat the Pirates. The Falcons shot 68% from the field and converted 17 of 22 three-point attempts.
Ventura was also slowed by injuries. Freshman Leo Parker, who averaged 17.4 points a game to lead Ventura in scoring this season, missed nine minutes of the second half after injuring his knee. Sophomore Tony Walker also played with a sore wrist that he had previously broken.
Despite the injuries, Mathews offered no excuses.
"It was a very exciting game and we played well, but they played better," Mathews said. "Our team worked really hard and we have nothing to be ashamed of. The score was not indicative of the way we played."
Despite the Pirates not qualifying for the state tournament, Mathews can take solace in his team's record. The Pirates finished 28-6 and won the Western State Conference Northern Division with a 12-2 record. Ventura also had a 12-1 record at home.
"I'm very pleased with the way they responded all year to the challenges we faced," Mathews said.
Ventura has its top two scorers--Parker and Reggie Betton--returning next season. The Pirates will lose several top players, however, including Walker, Dave Heckmann and Rick Fluckey.
"We have a good nucleus returning and that really helps," Mathews said.
Walker, Parker and Betton were selected to the All-WSC first-team and Fluckey was an all-conference honorable mention. Oxnard College, which was eliminated in the second round of regionals, did not fare as well as Ventura. Mt. San Jacinto defeated Oxnard, 68-51, last week to oust the Condors.
Under Coach Remy McCarthy, Oxnard advanced to the regionals after finishing second in the WSC Northern Division. The Condors then knocked off Cypress, 71-60, in the first round.
McCarthy had few disappointments this season. Oxnard finished 20-12 after posting a 7-22 record last season and winning only one of 14 conference games.
"We were questionable at the beginning of the year because we had kids who had been out for a while," McCarthy said. "But, overall, we had a pretty good season."
Paul Nunnery scored 20 points and Mike Price added 16 points to lead Oxnard against Mt. San Jacinto. Price averaged 19 points a game to lead the Condors in scoring.
McCarthy said Nunnery and Price, both sophomores, have been recruited by Division II schools.
Price, Nunnery and Randy Carter of Oxnard were All-WSC first-team selections. Carter averaged 18.4 points a game and was second in scoring behind Price.