One victory on the basketball court cannot erase the pain and grief that members of the Hueneme boys' team experienced in the last three weeks. But it's a step in the right direction, according to Coach Tom McCollum.
Hueneme (4-8) had lost three consecutive games by a minimum of 21 points entering Wednesday's game at Rio Mesa, but the Vikings evened their Pacific View League record at 1-2 with a 62-49 victory.
It came a week after 17-year old Richard Lopez was fatally shot by a member of the Oxnard SWAT team as he held a Hueneme student hostage and three weeks after assistant coach Mitch Ruiz died of double pneumonia, according to McCollum.
"We just decided to do what we knew," McCollum said of Wednesday's game. "Go play hard. Go have fun. Let this be the joyous part of your life."
Ventura has rebounded from a disappointing loss to San Marcos on Jan. 10 with victories over Dos Pueblos and Santa Barbara to move into first place in the Channel League standings.
The Cougars (12-8, 3-1) were outscored, 24-9, in the fourth quarter of the 54-49 loss to San Marcos. But they defeated Dos Pueblos, 69-66, in double overtime last Friday after Trevor Prophet's three-point shot gave them a 67-66 lead with 25 seconds left.
They beat defending league champion Santa Barbara, 44-41, on Wednesday after Bryan Easterly hit two free throws with 30 seconds left.
Santa Barbara (12-8) could tie Ventura for first place with a victory at Buena tonight.
"We've got a lot of tough games left," Coach Dan Larson said. "But right now, things look good."
A shoulder injury suffered during football season has hampered Tyler Ebell of Ventura in basketball.
Ebell, who rushed for a national-record 4,494 yards and 64 touchdowns while leading the Cougars to the Southern Section Division IV title, scored 14 points in the Cougars' victory against Santa Barbara. But Larson had to call a timeout in the second quarter after Ebell re-injured his left shoulder.
"It's something he's had to deal with," Larson said. "Sometimes it pops out and he has to pop it back in."
Ebell, who has accepted a football scholarship to UCLA, is averaging 12.4 points. He averaged 15.0 last season.