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Ventura Stating Case as Dynasty

Women's JC Championships: Pirates defeat Contra Costa, 70-66, for fourth state title in six years.


STOCKTON — When the conversation turns to dynasties in college sports, someone needs to put in a few good words for the Ventura College women's basketball team.

The Pirates rallied from a 10-point halftime deficit to defeat Contra Costa, 70-66, Saturday night in the California Community College championship game at University of the Pacific's Spanos Center for their second title in a row and fourth in six years.

"Who would have thunk it?" Coach Ned Mircetic joked.

Not many people, not after watching the Pirates (33-4) get outplayed and outshot by a quick and tall Contra Costa team in the first half.

Contra Costa (33-6), with two starters six feet or taller, got off to an 11-2 lead behind the shooting of 6-foot guard Ashonda Williams, who made two three-point shots.

Ventura didn't have an answer defensively for Williams. She scored 20 points in the first half, including five three-point baskets, and finished with 36 points. Williams made nine of 15 three-point shots.

With Williams on a tear and Ventura shooting 34.5% from the field in the first half, and getting no points from leading scorer Kelly Murray, Contra Costa went into the break with a 34-24 lead.

The Comets also controlled the boards, outrebounding Ventura, 26-16, in the half, with 6-1 center Valencia Howard grabbing nine.

"My philosophy on [Williams' three-point shooting] was, if we are going to lose, it's going to be by her making the outside shots," Mircetic said. "We wanted to do a good job inside 10 feet."

That's where Murray and forward Sarah Kolbeck did some heavy damage after intermission.

The Pirates opened the second half with a 14-7 run, pulling to within 41-38, on six points by Kolbeck and eight by Murray.

A driving scoop shot and free throw by 5-1 Monica Hang, the shortest player on either team, put Ventura ahead for the first time, 48-46, with 9:56 to play.

Hang was the only returning player for the Pirates, although she redshirted last year after injuring a knee early in the season.

"We knew some of their players were in foul trouble and we wanted to attack them [inside]," said Murray, a sophomore guard from Buena High who transferred to Ventura after one season at UC Irvine.

Murray, the tournament's most valuable player, and Kolbeck were extremely effective in the low post and on the offensive board. But, more importantly, they managed to get Howard out on fouls with 4:09 remaining and the Pirates holding a 59-57 lead.

Ventura scored seven consecutive points for a 66-57 lead with 2:24 left, but the Comets cut the deficit to 66-64 with 1:11 to go on two three-point baskets by Williams and a layup by Tiffany Reynolds, who stole an inbounds pass under the Contra Costa basket.

"We knew we couldn't give them easy shots," Coach Paul DeBolt said. "They got into a rhythm in the half-court offense."

Murray finished with 16 points, Kolbeck had 20 and Hang had 11. Guard Monique Taylor struggled, scoring 10 points on four-of-17 shooting, but she had a team-high 12 rebounds.

Williams made nine three-point baskets. Guard Iman Young scored 14 for Contra Costa and Howard had 11 points and 15 rebounds.

Ventura set a record by appearing in six consecutive title games.

"This is awesome," Murray said. "This is the best moment ever."


Notes: Hang joined Murray on the all-tournament team. Devin Montgomery of Moorpark, which lost, 66-60 in overtime, to San Jose City in the semifinals Friday, was selected to the men's all-tournament team. Fox Sports Net West 2 is televising the women's title game on delayed basis Monday at 5 p.m., with the men's game at 7 p.m.

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