The second Ocean League showdown of the season between the Santa Monica High School boys’ basketball team and Beverly Hills High School could not have started worse for the Vikings Friday night.
With sole possession of first place on the line, Samohi didn’t just get out of the gate slow, it found itself stuck in the mud in the first quarter. Beverly Hills, stepping on the defensive gas pedal in the first quarter, locked up Samohi and limited the Vikings to just five points in the first period.
The Normans pressed and pressured Samohi players all the way up the court and in isolation, wrecking havoc and chaos for the Vikings early on its way to a 58-45 win at Santa Monica.
The victory puts Beverly Hills (17-8, 7-1) in the driver’s seat to claim the Ocean League title. Samohi, with the loss, drop to a tie with Inglewood for second place. The Normans jumped out to a 13-5 first quarter lead by being active on the defensive end, forcing multiple Vikings’ turnovers and forcing Samohi to play out of rhythm for the first eight minutes of the game.
The drama continued for Samohi a couple of minutes into the second quarter as the Normans raced out to a lead that was big enough to think that this game would turned into an ugly blowout defeat for the Vikings.
However, Samohi (14-10, 6-2), got its swerve back midway through the second quarter to show those packed in the hot Santa Monica High gym that this contest was far from over. Even though the Vikings went into halftime trailing the Normans, 29-17, Samohi players Jonah Mathews, Ray Mancini and Travis Fujita gave the home fans something to cheer about in the second quarter.
The Vikings got back into the game with some stellar defense of its own, holding Beverly Hills to just 12 points in the third quarter, energizing the home crowd. The crowd got even more hyped after Mathews connected on a three-point shots and a put back basket by Mikhail Brown put Samohi within striking distance of possibly overtaking Beverly Hills.
After Brown’s bucket, Samohi trailed Beverly Hills just 43-39 midway through the fourth quarter. But a couple of turnovers and a number of key shots made by Beverly Hills down the stretch was enough for the Normans to short-circuit Samohi’s comeback dreams.
Mathews led Samohi with 14 points. Fujita and Mancini each contributed six points for the Vikings.