SAMOHI — A depleted Santa Monica couldn’t keep up with an energetic Mira Costa squad Wednesday at home, falling to .500 this season in the process.
Facing each other for the second time this year, Mira Costa boys basketball powered its way to a 59-44 win at Samohi as the Vikings struggle to find a solution to their depth issues. The loss was the second to Mira Costa this year.
Even though Samohi came into the game missing starters Nuwriyl Williams and Chris Johnson, the Vikings were able to storm out to an early 17-13 lead late in the first quarter.
From there, it was obvious Mira Costa had too many horses to let the shorthanded Vikings seize control of the game.
Mira Costa’s Justin Strings and Eric Ambrose each had 9 points each during the first half as the Mustangs snatched a 30-27 halftime lead.
The third quarter was more of the same with Strings and Co. ending the frame with a commanding 45-34 advantage.
From that point on, it was difficult for Samohi to bridge the gap as the Vikings fell to 7-7 a season removed from an appearance in the CIF Division 1 state championship game.
For Samohi head coach James Hecht, a thin roster had little to do with the loss.
“No excuses, hats off to Mira Costa,” Hecht said. “They played a good game. Very balanced from start to finish. They didn’t let up.”
Hecht did acknowledge that his depth issues didn’t help, but he’s more concerned with getting healthy for Ocean League play, which begins next week against Inglewood.
There is no timetable for the return of Williams, Johnson and key reserve Tim Southam, but Hecht said that each is day-to-day.
Williams, a junior who has been aggressively recruited by dozens of Division 1 college teams, has been hobbled since the beginning of the season when he came up limping after attempting a slam dunk against Palisades on opening night.
Sophomore Jonah Mathews has been called on to be the primary scoring threat in Williams’ absence. The crafty guard finished the night with 17 points, but was dogged by double and triple teams against an active Mira Costa defense.
“They didn’t let me cut to the rack,” Mathews said. “Every time we cut, they would switch, making it tough to make plays.”
With league play approaching, Samohi will try to shake off the uneven start, which featured matchups against some of Southern California’s elite programs including Fairfax and Loyola.
Hecht said that it can be done, but health will play a factor as the Vikings try to keep pace with the likes of rivals Inglewood and Beverly Hills, teams he considers to be the most formidable in the Ocean League.
“The league is competitive as usual,” Hecht said. “Beverly Hills returns the most players in our league, they are the most mature team to be sure.”
Samohi plays Inglewood at home on Wednesday. The game is part of a doubleheader with the girls’ basketball team and begins at 7:30 p.m. The girls’ game begins at 6 p.m.