In this remarkable basketball season when the Santa Monica High boys and girls teams have both reached the CIF Finals, their excellent comraderie has been a factor.
When the girls won their semi-final playoff game at Damien High Saturday night the boys were cheering them on. They had gone to the game on a team bus, not an unusual development.
“We were playing far from home but I looked in the stands and saw some of the guys,” said Samohi girls coach Marty Verdugo. “They were rooting for us.
“The players have been there for each other all season. Sometimes I come into our gym when the boys are finishing their practice and we’re starting ours and they’re shooting together. They even have competitive shooting games.”
James Hecht, the boys coach, thinks it’s a positive development that both programs are successful.
“It’s good for the school,” he said. “Students are taking pride in what the basketball teams are accomplishing. A high school is like a family. I see teachers at games who had a student in the third grade and are interested in what they’re doing now.”
Hecht’s co-operation shouldn’t be minimized. With his team winning its semi-final game the previous night he could have scheduled a film session or a practice Saturday. but he didn’t.
“There are friendships among the basketball players,” he said. “During the game at Damien Solomon Singer was leading cheers, not just sitting and watching.”
Hecht said the friendships flourished a couple of years ago when the Ocean League changed its format to have the girls varsity game and the boys on the same program, meaning they’d ride on the same bus to road games. In prior years the boys’ junior varsity would play a preliminary game before the varsity and the girls’ game would be played at the opposite school.
In the history of Santa Monica High the boys and girls basketball teams have never reached the CIF Finals in the same year. The boys won a CIF championship in 1987. The girls have never won one.
Verdugo, in his fourth year as the girls head coach, said the players established their goal for this season 10 months ago.
“There are no CIF championship banners for girls basketball in our gym,” he said. “There’s a spot near the scoreboard for one. I pointed to it.
“Everyone is aboard now about that goal. It shows in the intensity on defense and the sacrifices they make for each other. We played great defense in the semi-final game and took our opponent out of its offense.”
Mirror Sports Editorsports@smmirror.com