It was known that Sabrina Norton, the sophomore center on the Santa Monica High girls basketball team, wasn’t going to be in school next season.
Unexpectedly, however, the Norton family recently moved to Seattle, where her father, Ken, has become an assistant football coach on Pete Carroll’s staff.
Combined with Moriah Faulk’s knee injury, Coach Marty Verdugo has had to bring in two new starters at the most crucial time of the season — the start of the CIF playoffs.
With junior Bianka Baltizar and freshman Brianna Harris starting, Samohi cruised through its first two games. The second round game was a 75-50 over Perris Saturday night at Samohi.
In that game Samohi got off to a sluggish start, then went on a 28-1 run and wasn’t challenged thereafter.
On Wednesday, Fenruary 24, Samohi will have a third round home game against Rancho Cucamonga. Samohi is the No. 2 seed and Rancho Cucamonga is seeded eighth.
“Sabrina’s departure was sudden,” said Verdugo. “One day the family decided to move rather than wait a year and she saw her teammates for only about an hour before leaving.
“Then, before our first playoff game she had a conference call with them. On the bench, the seat next to me won’t be occupied. We have her jersey there.”
Ken Norton is the former NFL player who was on Carroll’s USC staff and went with him to the Seahawks. He had frequently attended his daughter’s Samohi games.
Verdugo is proud that his team is playing well despite the need for lineup changes.
“We’re hitting on all cylinders right now,” he said.
Against Perris, Samohi made 24 of 27 free throws.
No Samohi girls basketball team has won a CIF championship.
“It’s been our goal all season to become the first one to do it,” said Verdugo. “We want that banner to hang in our gym.”