By Erik Engle
Cuesta men’s basketball defeated the Ventura Pirates last Saturday night in commanding fashion, 67-50, while the lady Cougars fell to the Pirates in a close contest, 64-59.
The Cuesta men’s team came out strong against Ventura and managed a three point lead going into halftime, never looking back. Cuesta opened up a 16-4 run to start the second half, and maintained the lead for the rest of the night. The Cougars relied on their disruptive, high-energy defense and their transition game to preserve the win.
Freshman Keshawn Liggins had 23 points on the night to lead the team offensively, while sophomore Tayler Thompson had three steals and five blocks to lead the defense. Thompson also pulled down six offensive rebounds, with 11 on the night in total.
The Ventura Pirates couldn’t seem to get anything going in the second half, mainly due to sloppy ball-handling. The Pirates played well on the defensive side of the ball, holding the Cougars to 42 percent shooting. Unfortunately for the Pirates, they allowed the Cougars to pull down 14 offensive rebounds, leading to plenty of second chance points.
Cuesta won the game going away. They opened up a 20-point lead with under six minutes left, and never let the lead shrink back to single digits.
The Lady Cougars also started the game strong by jumping out to an early lead, but the Ventura women were able to grab a six point lead going into halftime. Ventura was able to finish the second half strong, securing their 13th straight win.
Both teams came out of the half with a ton of energy, but the jump shots and 3 pointers weren’t falling for the Lady Cougars. Cuesta only shot 23 percent from 3-point-range, while Ventura shot upwards of 36 percent. The Pirates also out-rebounded the Cougars 39 to 27.
Aubri Smith and Micaela Pericone-Kapp carried their team throughout the night. Smith was double-teamed practically all night, and still managed to lead the women Pirates in scoring (22), assists (10), and rebounds (9), coming up one rebound short of a triple-double.
Pericone-Kapp shot over 50 percent from 3-point-range, finishing with 20 points on the night.
Cuesta Athletic Director, Bob Mariucci, praised the Cougars’ effort Saturday night. “I was very proud of the way our men and women played, and we look forward to making a run in the playoffs,” said Mariucci.
As both teams are in good position to make the playoffs. The Cuesta men are in a three-way tie for first, and have a 6 win, 1 loss record in conference play and a 16 win, 7 loss record overall, while the Cuesta women are in second place with a 5 win, 2 loss record in conference play and a 19 win, 6 loss record overall. “Their records should solidify some type of playoff berth,” Mariucci stated.
With the men’s win against Ventura, Cuesta keeps pace with Allan Hancock and LA Pierce. Two of the conference’s top three teams face off in a pivotal matchup for first place as Cuesta basketball plays Allan Hancock College in Santa Maria on Wednesday, Feb. 4. “It comes down to Wednesday,” Mariucci stated.
The women will also play Allan Hancock in Santa Maria on Wednesday, as they look to better their playoff position.