The Santa Monica High boys and girls basketball teams have both been selected to participate in the state playoffs.
After both teams practiced for a week without knowing if they’d be chosen the field was revealed Sunday afternoon, March 8. Play was scheduled to begin the next night.
The boys were seeded 12th in the 16-team field for the Southern California Regional and given a game at No. 5 seed Dominguez Monday at 7 p.m. The winner will play again Tuesday night, facing the winner of Taft and Ventura.
The girls were seeded 15th and scheduled for a Monday night game at No. 2 seed Long Beach Poly. The winner will play again Tuesday night against the winner of Taft and Stockdake of Bakersfield.
Semi-finals will be played Thursday and the championship games Saturday. A similar tournament will be played in Northern California. The champions will then play for the state championship in each division on the March 21-22 weekend at the Golden State Warriors’ arena in Oakland.
Neither Santa Monica team won the Ocean League title and both lost semi-final games in the CIF playoffs, creating the uncertainty of whether they’d get a state invitation. But both had outstanding records. The boys were 22-8, the girls 23-6.
“We’re proud to be representing the school at this level of competition,” said Samohi boys coach James Hecht. “It’s a great honor and I’m particularly happy for our seniors.”
The team has had balanced scoring with 6-foot-6 senior center Kunnu Shofu influencing several games with his rebounding and shot blocking. Guard Donte Bowie recovered from an injury to bring depth and leadership from mid-season on.
This is the first time in Hecht’s 15 years as the Vikings’ coach that one of his teams has received a state tournament invitation. It is believed the 1987 Samohi team which won a CIF title played in a state tournament although no documentation could be found.
The state tournament list of past winners lists Stockton as the 1928 champion with a 26-12 title game victory over Santa Monica.
In the state tournament the CIF 1-A and 1-AA divisions are combined, meaning Samohi is grouped with the biggest teams in Southern California. Conceivably, if Samohi would score upsets that would bring it into the later rounds it could play No. 1 seed Riverside King, No. 2 Westchester or No. 3 Mater Dei.
Until Saturday Mater Dei was 30-0 and ranked No. 1 in the nation. But it lost to King, 76-61 in the CIF championship game.
Coach Marty Verdugo’s Samohi girls have a 23-6 record even though Lilly Feder (back injury) and Sabrina Norton (wrist) weren’t available. Both were hoping to be cleared by doctors for the state tournament.
The team has been led by seniors Elysse Brandis and Jennie Harding and junior Thea Lemberger.
“Most forecasts had us in,” said Verdugo. “But you’re never sure until you hear it officially.
“We had a good week of practice despite the uncertainty.”