By Nick Giannandrea
A night after overcoming a large late third quarter deficit, College of the Sequoias' women's basketball team let one slip away during the semifinals of the 43rd annual Gilcrest Invitational.
The state No. 14-ranked Giants saw an 11-point lead evaporate during a 56-53 loss to No. 2 Ventura on Dec. 6 at Porter Field House. On Dec. 5, COS erased a 24-point deficit en route to a 67-66 victory over College of the Canyons during the opening round of the Gilcrest.
After winning the Gilcrest title each of the past two seasons, the Giants (7-2) will play No. 3 San Joaquin Delta (7-1) at 2 p.m. Dec. 7 for third place in the restructured eight-team tournament.
Ventura (8-0) is set to face No. 7 Mt. San Antonio (7-2) in the final at 4 p.m. Dec. 7.
A 3-pointer by McKenna Hsiung (Bakersfield High) with 5:41 left in the third quarter gave COS its biggest lead of the game at 38-37.
But the Pirates whittled their deficit to 39-38 by the end of the third.
Sapphire Jones' layup with 8:08 remaining in the game capped a 6-0 Giants run to open the fourth quarter.
Ventura, a seven-time state champion, outscored COS 18-8 the rest of the way.
The Pirates went ahead for good, 48-47, with 5:14 to play on a pair of free throws by Talia Taufaasau.
The Giants had possession down 55-53 with 1:15 remaining, but committed a turnover, failed to rebound a Pirates missed shot at the other end and were forced to foul with 19 seconds left.
Kimora Pooler sank two free throws for Ventura to seal the outcome.
Alaysia Reed (Las Vegas) had 14 points, four steals and three rebounds to lead COS.
Madison Kast, formerly of Redwood High, had 10 points and five rebounds for Ventura.
In other games, Mt. San Antonio edged Delta 46-44, No. 18 Chabot beat Canyons 81-57 and L.A. Valley topped Reedley 49-31.
Chabot faces L.A. Valley at noon in the consolation final, while Reedley and Canyons meet at 10 a.m.