When the Santa Monica High boys basketball team lost convincingly to Leuzinger Saturday in the CIF championship game, Coach James Hecht was sorry his team didn’t play well in such an important game.
“It’s kind of odd,” he said. “We didn’t play our usual game; we rushed shots and turned the ball over too much. Yet we get to play again because we received a bid to the state tournament.”
The Vikings made the most of that opportunity. Traveling to Fresno, they won a first round game from Clovis East Tuesday night, 67-65.
A three-point basket by Cory Walker with 10 seconds left turned apparent defeat into victory and capped a fourth quarter comeback. Samohi trailed after three periods, 50-47, but outscored the home team in the fourth, 20-15.
James Montgomery was Samohi’s leading scorer with 19 points. Harry Horn had 17 and Walker 14.
Samohi was the No. 7 seed and Clovis East was No. 10. But Samohi was required to travel because the Central Section champion was guaranteed a home game.
If Samohi advances any further it will be a considerable upset. The Vikings will play at Westchester Thursday at 7 p.m. Westchester, which won the state tournament last year and is a perennial national power, is the No. 2 seed behind Mater Dei.
Westchester cruised through its first round game against a strong opponent, routing Colony, 71-47.
After the loss Saturday, Hecht gathered his players Monday and delivered a message.
“We didn’t play well, but let’s not let one loss beat us twice,” he said.
“We earned the right to go to state. It wasn’t just handed to us. We feel we belong.”
Evaluating Samohi’s performance in Fresno, Hecht said “we settled down.”
And what about Westchester?
“They have quality players and it won’t be a matter of stopping one main scorer,” he said.