It wasn’t long ago when the Santa Monica High boys basketball team was slipping out of contention for the Ocean League championship.
A mid-season slump reduced the Vikings to third place, but their overall record was good enough to merit a CIF Division 1-A playoff berth.
Now Samohi is in the third round as a result of wins over Montclair and Chaoarral. Samohi’s third round game was scheduled for Tuesday night, February 24, at Perris High.
The Vikings’ record has improved to 21-7. It’s the fifth time in James Hecht’s 13 years as head coach the team has won at least 20 games.
Asked about the Vikings’ resurgence, Hecht explained that several injured players came back. Center Kunnu Shofu had a hand injury, guard Harry Horn a broken nose, forward Danilo Toscovic a fractured finger and forward James Montgomery an ankle problem.
“We became healthy,” Hecht said. “In addition, we hadn’t responded well when things went wrong and we needed to work on that.”
In the first round Samohi left at 4 p.m. for a 7:30 game in the city of Montclair, ran into heavy traffic and arrived just 40 minutes before tipoff.
“At 6:30, I was getting a little nervous on the bus,” Hecht admitted.
But Shofu, the Vikings’ 6-foot-6 center, dominated inside play and led the team to a 74-53 victory, scoring 16 points.
“His hand is much better,” said Hecht.
Guard Jerome Hackett scored 19 and forward Solomon Singer had 15.
Samohi was home for the second round and was backed by a large crowd on Friday night, February 20 in a 58-56 win over Chaparral High.
“The players were focused and active,” said Hecht.
Hackett scored 18 points and guard Donte Bowie had 15.
The visitors had the ball in the final 20 seconds with a chance to win but turned the ball over with seven seconds to play. Bowie then missed a shot but Shofu took the rebound and stuffed the ball through the hoop as the game ended.
The CIF has changed its playoff format this season, adding one more division and placing teams in divisions based on past performance and enrollment.
As a result, none of the three remaining Ocean League teams are in the same division. League champion Inglewood and second place Morningside have also won their first two games but in other divisions.