The Santa Monica High 2009 girls basketball team advanced further than any team in the sport in school history.The Vikings reached the CIF semi-finals, and when they lost, they were accorded a state tournament invitation.Samohi lost that state playoff game to Long Beach Poly, 63-35. Long Beach Poly then went on to win the Southern California Regional and will play the Northern California representative in Sacramento Saturday, March 21 in the state title game.Coach Marty Verdugo’s Vikings finished with a 23-8 record, and several of the team’s best players were undergraduates who will return next season.Imagine what the team might have accomplished if two key players hadn’t been in injured.Lilly Feder was sidelined for most of the season with a back injury and was unable to realize her goal of returning for the state playoffs. Sabrina Norton, a freshman regarded as a star of the next few seasons, missed considerable time with a broken wrist and missed the CIF playoffs before returning for the state playoff game.Next season point guard Thea Lemberger, a three-year starter, will be a senior. Lemberger averaged 16.8 points and 3.7 assists this season.Another guard, Katrina Johnson, figures to benefit from a year of varsity experience.Forward Elesse Brandis, guard Jennie Harding and center Brenna McNamara were seniors and the team’s best rebounders, so Verdugo must find replacements for them.It is anticipated that Norton will provide a lot of help in that area and Feder will be a starter if her health permits.The team had some interesting off-court experiences. One was to attend a USC-UCLA womens’ basketball game as a group, a result of Sabrina Norton’s father being Ken Norton Jr. the former NFL player who is now an assistant on Pete Carroll’s Trojan football staff.Verdugo is happy that Ken Norton has taken an interest in the Samohi team and attended games even when his daughter wasn’t able to play.
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