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Ventura Has the Hang of It

Women's basketball: Seeking their fourth state title in six years, Pirates beat Fresno City in semifinals, 74-58.


STOCKTON — There were no big runs for Ventura College, but Monica Hang made plenty of big plays Friday night to help the Pirates defeat Fresno City, 74-58, in a semifinal of the women's basketball state championships at San Joaquin Delta College.

On four occasions in the second half, Hang drove to the basket, put in a shot and drew a foul. She made each ensuing free throw. After Hang's fourth three-point play, Ventura had a 61-52 lead with 5:44 remaining and pulled away from Fresno (30-7).

The Pirates (32-4), defending state champions, play in a record sixth consecutive championship game tonight at 6 at University of the Pacific's Spanos Center. Ventura plays Contra Costa, a 70-53 winner over Cerritos, and will be seeking its fourth title in six years.

"I wasn't trying to create," Hang said. "I was looking at the defense the whole time and I saw the openings. I had to go strong to the basket."

Hang, a freshman from Keppel High, finished with 18 points, three rebounds, two assists and two steals, earning the gratitude of a coach who knows she's rounding into form after two seasons of knee injuries.

"I was happy to see that she's able to play with the same kind of confidence as before," Ventura Coach Ned Mircetic said.

Ventura went on its only run of the game trailing, 8-5. The Pirates outscored Fresno, 16-2, for a 21-10 lead. They led, 28-16, with 6:10 to play in the first half but managed only one more field goal and led, 31-29, at halftime.

The Pirates had 16 turnovers but only four in the second half, when they made 18 of 21 free throws. They shot 54% in each half.

Kelly Murray had 20 points and Monique Taylor added 14 for Ventura, which held Fresno to 36% shooting.

Amber Easter had 17 points and 10 rebounds for Fresno.

"We knew we couldn't stay with them on the perimeter, so we had to pack [our defense] in as close to the basket as possible," Mircetic said. "Our job was to win the 10-foot-and-in battle.

"The key was to make [Easter] work for her shots. We had to give up something. We wanted to make them shoot from the outside. [Fresno] made a couple but were not consistent."

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