It will be a busy weekend in the Santa Monica High gym.
The Samohi boys will begin the CIF basketball playoffs Friday night, February 16, at 7:30 against the winner of a Wednesday wild card game between Woodbridge of Anaheim and Alta Loma.
Woodbridge is led by the 6-foot-10 son of former UCLA forward Darren Daye.
Samohi is the second place team from the Ocean League. Losses in the final week of the regular season to Culver City and Hawthorne cost the Vikings the league championship. Although 21-5 overall, they came in second behind Inglewood.
Last season Samohi finished in a tie for second place but advanced to the playoff semi-finals.
Should Samohi win its opening game, it likely would face Canyon High in the second round.
“We don’t enter the playoffs with the momentum we expected to have,” said Coach James Hecht. “We’ve had some slippage in recent games. Hopefully we’ll learn from the mistakes.”
The Samohi girls will also have a first round home game. Coach Marty Verdugo’s Ocean League champions will host Marina High of Huntington Beach Saturday night, February 17, at 7.
The Vikings won the league title last season too, but lost a controversial first round playoff game to Long Beach Poly, a talented team that had to forfeit most of its victories but was granted an at-large playoff berth – a decision made by the Moore League.
Led by Katy Keating, Emily Foshang and Daisy Feder, the Samohi girls surged to an 18-7 record. Included in recent wins was a 67-38 rout of Culver City.
The boys had a 10-point lead over Culver City February 6 with three minutes to play. The Centaurs closed in and won, 69-68 on Marqus Richards’ follow shot with one second left.
Two nights later, Samohi lost at Hawthorne, 50-43. The outcome allowed defending league champion Hawthorne to gain the league’s third automatic playoff berth. Culver City then got in as an at-large team.
Brandon Richardson, the Hawthorne star, was instrumental in the win.
“Although Richards and Richardson play different styles, I think they’re the two best players in the league,” said Hecht.
Ari Feldman, Samohi’s 6-foot-6 center, was plagued by early foul trouble in both losses and his playing time was limited.
“No doubt we’re a better team when he’s in the game,” said Hecht. “We’re working on Ari being more patient, especially on the defensive end.”
Over the last two years Hecht’s teams have won 41 games and lost 15.