The Santa Monica High girls basketball team already has four star players, and Coach Marty Verdugo is hoping that two talented transfers will soon become eligible.
Neither Moriah Faulk nor Bianka Baltizar played in the Vikings’ first four games as they await clearance from the CIF.
Adding them to a team headed by UCLA-bound Thea Lemberger, UC San Diego signee Lilly Feder, Kristina Johnson, and Sabrina Norton could, in Verdugo’s estimation, elevate Samohi among the elite teams in Southern California.
Last season, when Norton was out with a broken wrist, Samohi had a 23-8 record and reached the CIF playoff semi-finals where it lost to Canyon Springs High of Moreno Valley.
Last weekend Samohi defeated Canyon Springs, 65-60 in the Brea Tournament as Lemberger scored 30 points. In the first round Samohi had lost to Summit High of Fontana, 40-39.
Samohi began this season with a 65-53 win at Riverside Poly and most recently defeated Narbonne, 59-48 as Lemberger scored 24 points and Feder had 17.
A goal this season is to win the Ocean League championship. Last season Samohi finished second to Inglewood. The teams split their two meetings but Samohi lost to Beverly Hills.
Lemberger is an outstanding 5-foot-7 point guard, The 5-5 Johnson plays guard too and is exceptionally fast and the 5-10 Norton, a sophomore, is a tower of strength on the backboards. The daughter of former football star Ken Norton, now an assistant coach at USC, had 14 rebounds against Canyon Springs.
Both of the transfers are 5-11 juniors. They’re not related but were high school teammates in Arizona before deciding to leave.
Samohi will play Palos Verdes and Serra this week in the Redondo Tournament, then head to Arizona for the-16-team Nike Tournament, where it will face strong competition.
Verdugo is in his fourth year as the Vikings’ head coach. In his background is employment with the San Antonio Spurs as video coordinator, working closely with Greg Popovich, one of the NBA’s most successful coaches.
As a result, Verdugo has a championship ring from the 1999 season.
Lemberger became the first player in his Samohi program to receive a Division 1 scholarship.
“I feel part of my job here is to prepare players for the next level,” he said. “I am so happy for Thea and Lilly.
“I think our recent win over Canon Springs made people realize we can be a factor in the Division 1 playoffs.”