The Santa Monica High boys reached the CIF basketball playoff Division 1AA semifinals by defeating Long Beach Poly, 53-52, Friday night before a standing room only crowd of 1,000 in the Samohi gym.The Vikings were scheduled to play Long Beach Jordan last night in Long Beach, but the result was not available at press time. If successful, Samohi will play either top-seeded Los Alamitos or Redlands East Valley Saturday for a CIF championship at The Pond in Anaheim.This is the first time in James Hecht’s 12 years as head coach that the Vikings have advanced to the semifinals, and it is Samohi’s first trip to the semifinals since the school won the CIF championship in 1987.“It’s great for the school and great for the community,” said Hecht. “I can’t thank our fans enough. Even when we played in Corona in our previous game we had tremendous fan support – so much that it seemed like a home game.“The players have put their personal agendas aside and now it’s all about the team. We don’t have one guy we can ask to carry us, but our shot selection has improved and on defense five players are moving along with the ball.“You always want to play your best basketball at the end of the season and we’re doing that.”A local business, Westside Rental Connection, passed out blue T-shirts to the fans to make a sea of blue in the gym as Samohi eliminated Poly, a traditional power.Samohi was seven points behind in the third quarter. The deficit was reduced to 37-34 as the fourth quarter began. Samohi then outscored Poly the rest of the way, 19-15.The game was tied at 46 with 90 seconds to play when Junior Brian Louff stole the ball and lobbed a pass to Akil Gainer, who dunked. Will Freedman’s two free throws increased the lead to 50-46, and Samohi was four points ahead when Poly made a three-point shot just ahead of the final buzzer.The crowd, which included several of Hecht’s former players, remained in the gym and celebrated rather than exiting immediately.Samohi’s success is a bit surprising in view of the fact the team didn’t win the Ocean League championship. Hawthorne, which went undefeated in the league, was eliminated from the playoffs in the second round.Samohi is the lowest seeded team (14th) in all divisions to reach the semis of this season’s CIF basketball playoffs.In the previous round, Santa Monica traveled to Centennial High of Corona and won easily, 68-49. “We took them out of the game early,” said Hecht.Other Boys’ TeamsNew Roads, the No. 5 seed in its division, defeated fourth-seeded Ontario Christian, 72-62, to set up a game against Montclair Prep. The result of that match was not available at press time.In the L.A. City Section playoffs. Palisades advanced to the semifinals in the Invitational Division but lost to San Pedro, 62-61. Girls’ TeamsNew Roads’ season ended in a 64-37 loss to top-seeded Windward in the third playoff round. Despite the one-sided defeat, New Roads had a fine season. The Jaguars went undefeated in the Harbor League and were 18-7 overall. In their second round playoff game, they defeated Valley Torah, 80-71.Brentwood, the No. 2 seed, eliminated Woodcrest Christian of Riverside, 82-45.Venice’s season came to an end in a 54-53 second round loss to Crenshaw in the L.A. City Section Championship Bracket playoffs. Venice reprated as champion of the Western League and had an overall record of 19-8.
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