The Santa Monica High boys basketball team is in the same position as the girls. They lost their CIF semi-final playoff game and can get into the upcoming state playoffs only with an at-large bid.Championship games in the CIF playoffs will be contested Saturday, March 7, with both the winning and losing teams expected to receive state invitations. In addition, there’s another at-large spot to be issued.After finishing third in the Ocean League, Samohi had a grand playoff run, winning three games.But, after winning at Perris High, 68-66, in overtime earlier in the week, the Vikings fell short in their Division 1-A semi-final game, losing to Tesoro High of Santa Margarita, 62-58, Friday night at Santa Monica College.Samohi’s overall record is 22-8. The strength of the Ocean League this season is evident as both first-place Inglewood and second-place Morningside have reached the championship game in their divisions.In James Hecht’s 15th year as the Vikings’ coach he fielded another productive team. The difference between winnimg the league, as Samohi did last season, and coming in third was the improved showing by Inglewood and Morningside.The strength of the league will be one factor considered in choosing an at-large team in the state event.Samohi slumped in mid-season but sharpened its play in the final weeks and was competitive in a strong playoff field.At Perris, center Kunnu Shofu scored 21 points and guard Donte Bowie had 14.Samohi overcame a 15-point deficit, but Perris made a three-point shot as regulation ended to force overtime.Then with Samohi applying a full-court press a Perris player received a pass and shot the ball into the wrong basket, giving Samohi the first points of the extra session.That edge proved decisive.Samohi was awarded the home site for the semi-final game with the stipulation via a CIF rule it could not be their gym. SMC was chosen and a capacity crowd turned out.“I want to thank the community for its support,” said Hecht. “It wasn’t just students. I saw people of all ages, including a lot of alumni.”Bowie led Samohi with 16 points. Shofu scored 12 and guard Cory Walker nine.Tesoro had a 6-foot-8 center who’s committed to the University of San Diego and he influenced the game.“We started settling for outside shots instead of challenging him,” said Hecht.”And Tesoro was very disciplined. Our press didn’t bother them much.”Samohi trailed by 11 points with 2 1/2 minutes to play, rallied and was in contention with 20 seconds left but couldn’t in-bound the ball following a time out. “It was a great game,” said Hecht.”I’m proud of the players and my assistant coaches for the effort they put in all season.”
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