VENTURA — So much for the threat from the north.
The Ventura College men's basketball team showed it is not ready or about to roll over in the Western State Conference Northern Division, beating Cuesta, 88-69, before a capacity home crowd Saturday night.
The Pirates (17-6, 2-0 in division play) did little wrong in routing Cuesta (21-5, 1-1), the team that seemingly represented Ventura's biggest road block for an 11th consecutive division title.
"They are a good team, let's not kid ourselves," said Virgil Watson, Ventura's coach. "We got them on a good night for us."
The Pirates dominated throughout, leading by as much as 45-25 late in the first half after sophomore point guard Sam Turks made two free throws.
Turks finished with 17 points, 15 coming in the first half. He benefited from crisp passing by the Pirates.
"We tried to get into the gaps and find the open man," Turks said.
Ventura found plenty.
Sophomore guard Chris Clayton scored 16 points, split evenly between the halves, and made four of nine three-point shots. His three-point basket opened the scoring in the second half, giving Ventura a 55-33 lead.
And freshman center Eddie Miller, a former Chatsworth High standout, scored 14 points to go with five rebounds. Freshman forward DaJuan Wilson scored 13 points.
Ventura, two-time defending state champion, extended a 52-33 halftime lead to 74-46 with 9:24 left to play on a dunk by Miller and cruised the rest of the way.
"We are just starting to get our rhythm," Watson said. "We had a lot of intensity in practice this week. This had a playoff atmosphere to it and that really pumped up the guys."
The Pirates forced Cuesta, the WSC's top-scoring team with a 94.5-point average, into 26 turnovers. It was the second-lowest scoring output this season by the Cougars, who have topped the 100-point mark nine times.
The Pirates, who started the week shooting 71.1% from the free-throw line, made 20 of 23 (86.9%) attempts. They took advantage of 18 Cuesta fouls. There were 40 fouls in the game.
Ventura made 30 of 63 shots (47.6%) and Cuesta made 24 of 56 (42.8%). The Cougars made only 18 of 26 free throws (69.2%).
Forward Quincy Shannon, a transfer from Oxnard, led Cuesta with 16 points and had a game-high 13 rebounds. He scored 14 points in the second half.
Cuesta forward Justin Mora, who was averaging 20.5 points in divisional games, was held to two first-half points.
The ease with which Ventura disposed of Cuesta did not surprise Turks.
"I feel if our team plays the best it can, nobody can beat us," he said.