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On the brink of defeat Thursday night, the Santa`Monica High girls basketball team survived to win its third round state tournament game.
The reward will be a trip to Fresno.
Requiring a three-point basket by forward Bianka Balthazar to tie the game in regulation and two free throws in the final 10 seconds of overtime by guard Thea Lemberger to win it, Samohi got past Canyon Springs of Moreno Valley, 59-56.
“Great players make great plays,’ said Samohi coach Marty Verdugo.
Lemberger scored 20 points and forward Moriah Faulk contributed 17.
In the semi-finals Saturday Samohi, the No. 3 seed, will play in Fresno against Clovis West, the No. 2 seed, with the winner eyeing No. 1 seed Long Beach Poly a week later. Long Beach Poly eliminated Samohi in the first round a year ago and went on to win the state tournament.
Long Beach Poly’s semi-final game will be against Summit.
The current competition will determine the Southern California champion. A similar tournament is going on in Northern California, and the winner of each will meet for the state championship on the March 27 weekend in Bakersfield.
As the level of competition has improved, it’s become apparant Samohi could not have been elevated to its present status without two transfers who arrived during the season from a high school in Arizona.
Faulk and Balthazar, both 5-foot-10, joined an outstanding nucleus of Lemberger, Kristina Johnson and Lilly Feder and made up for the loss of sophomore center Sabrina Norton, who moved to Seattle when her father, Ken Norton, joined Pete Carroll’s football coaching staff with the Seahawks.
Faulk and Balhazar are juniors. Lemberger has signed to play for UCLA next season and Feder for UC San Diego. Next season freshman Brianna Harris, currently a key reserve, is expected to move into the starting lineup.
While most of the Santa Monica High family was concentrating on the school’s basketball playoff games last week the Vikings’ baseball season began. Perhaps it was best that new coach Sheldon Philip-Guide saw his team play in relative obscurity. Samohi lost to Moorpark, 7-0 and Rio Mesa, 5-1. The Vikings, who have an ambitious non-league schedule, will participate in tournament play this week. In recent years Samohi has had to scratch for runs in the absence of power hitters. Being able to score just one run in two games is an early indication the trend may continue. Alonzo Gonzalez was the starting pitcher in the first game and Ethan Corn in the second. Corn gave up all five runs before Adam Padilla didn’t allow any in relief.
MITCH CHORTKOFF Mirror Sports Editor firstname.lastname@example.org