The Ventura women’s basketball team is continuing its streak of excellence, chasing its eighth state title since 1996, all under head coach Ned Mircetic.
“I think this year – knock on wood – unlike last year we have every piece we need so far,” said sophomore guard Talia Taufaasau.
The Pirates hold a 13-3 record and are ranked No. 6 in the state. This normally wouldn’t mean much to the locals of Santa Clarita. Ventura is a conference opponent of Santa Clarita’s own College of the Canyons after all. However, in the last three seasons it has.
In the 2019-20 season, the Pirates’ roster sports four Foothill League alumni. Canyon High School is well represented with two Cowboy alumni on the Ventura roster; Taufaasau and redshirt-sophomore guard Alaina Garcia.
Garcia is in her third season with the Pirates. She played in all 31 games for Ventura during her freshman season and lead the team in 3-point shooting. She saw no action in 2018-19, sitting out on a redshirt season.
She returned to the court in 2019 for her redshirt-sophomore season. She has made 13 appearances in the Pirates’ 16 games this season, starting in three of them, so far. Garcia has recorded 25 points to this point and leads the team in free throw percentage, knocking down all three of her attempts.
“Even in high school she was one of my favorite people to play with because if you get her the ball, she’s going to score,” said Taufaasau. “That’s her role on the team. I’m happy I get the chance to play with her again”
As a 2018 Canyon graduate, Taufaasau is in her second season on the Ventura basketball team. She made an impact immediately for the Pirates and was named Third-Team All-State and First-Team All-WSC as a freshman.
Her freshman campaign landed her fourth on the Ventura all-time single-season free throws attempted and made list (159-211). She also recorded 12 games with 20 or more points, including a 30-point game against Reedley.
This year, Taufaasau took her game to the next level. She leads the Pirates in five different categories. Her 238 points, 63 assists, 18 blocks and 14 steals are all team highs on the season. She also leads her team in 3-point percentage (76-190). Taufaasau has started in all 16 games for the Pirates this season.
“She’s a really good point guard,” said freshman guard Yasmine Ahllamara. “I like being on the floor with her because she’s controlled and calm. Her decision making as a guard is really good.”
Sophomore forward LaDaesha Merriweather joins her fellow Santa Claritans at Ventura as a 2015 Golden Valley graduate. She started playing for the Pirates during the 2018-19 campaign, starting in all 35 games. As a freshman, she led the Pirates in rebounds per game (10.3) and recorded six double-doubles. Her efforts earned her All-WSC honors.
“I feel comfortable taking shots when I know LaDaesha’s on the floor,” said Ahllamara. “It’s nice to have someone on the key for one when you shoot, she’s there but when you feed it into her. I trust her decision making.”
Merriweather has continued to dominate the board during her sophomore season. Her 147 rebounds through the first 16 games leads Ventura’s squad. She also leads the Pirates in field goal percentage (26-54) and has scored 55 points through her 16 starts.
“(She’s) one of my favorite people to play with on my team because she plays aggressively offensively and defensively,” said Taufaasau. “As guards, we’re confident whether she scores herself or kicks it out to an open teammate.”
Ahllamara is new to the scene. She is trying to make her transition into a new level of competition after her graduation from Valencia High School in June. As a fresh face, she has been able to make an impact on her new team, putting up double-digit points in her first three games as a Pirate.
“Her defense is ridiculous,” said Taufaasau. “In practice, she’s one of the only people that makes my life hard. She does that in games too. She makes my life hard, she makes their life very hard.”
She has appeared in 12 games this season and has scored 63 points so far. She has also gotten to the board 30 times and assisted her teammates on 10 occasions.
Ventura has two games remaining before heading into conference play. Its next game is at West Hills-Lemoore at 5:00 p.m. on Jan. 3. It opens up its conference schedule with an away game against Oxnard at 5:00 p.m. on Jan. 22.
“We’re playing well,” said Taufaasau. “Just building on that going into conference because we have pretty solid teams in our conference. At the end of the day, it’s about bringing home a conference title.”