Santa Monica High School girls basketball team captured the Inglewood Circle of Champions Tournament championship by defeating Gardena Serra 62-57 in overtime Saturday night.
Bianka Balthazar, Long Beach State-bound guard for the Lady Vikings, was named Most Valuable Player and Kristina Johnson was named to the All-Tournament team.
Balthazar was quick to deflect the attention on herself and said it was a team effort that got the job done.
“As far as getting MVP, I wouldn’t have got it without my teammates, who played hard,” she said. “It was an awesome tournament. We worked hard and we played some tough teams. Serra was a good team that didn’t give up, which was good because we are going to play top teams this year.”
Lady Vikings head coach Marty Verdugo said he was “really proud of the team for always battling, whether down by 11 or up by 30.” He added: “We played hard for 32 minutes throughout the tournament. That type of effort proved to be the difference in our overtime win at Serra.”
The Lady Vikings (5-0) took care of business on Dec. 3, beating St. Bernard 78-41, in the process winning the so-called ‘Bruin Battle’ between Samohi’s Moriah Faulk and St. Bernard’s Casey Swain. Both are headed to UCLA next fall.
In the tournament’s earlier rounds, the Lady Vikings beat Mayfair and Jordan. The team “got off to a slow start and picked up and had two excellent second halves,” Verdugo said. “We’re kind of learning how to pace at the beginning.”
Faulk has been playing well, scoring 19 points in the Mayfair contest and registering eight rebounds and leading the team in assists in the game against Jordan.