SAMOHI ‚Äî When Santa Monica and Palisades face off it‚Äôs always electric, but no one expected the high-caliber drama that unfolded Saturday night.
Down by one point in the fourth quarter with four seconds left on the clock, Samohi starting forward Chris Smith was at the free-throw line for the Vikings. After the first shot bounced off the rim wildly, Vikings fans could feel the season slipping away.
After taking a second to compose himself, Smith stepped up and drained the second shot tying the game 62-62 and sending it into overtime.
“That first one made me nervous,” Smith said.
Smith, who played huge minutes, was invaluable on the defensive end and showed great improvement in his offensive game scoring 16 points on the night.
In a hotly contested game that had eight lead changes, the overtime was all Samohi. The Dolphins weren‚Äôt ready to tread the deep water as the Vikings steamrolled over them to smooth sailing advancing to the Southern California semifinals of the CIF State Boys Basketball Championships.
The Vikings went on a 10-0 run to start overtime and never gave Palisades a chance to gain momentum in the final minutes. Palisades would only score once in the final four minutes to make the score 76-63.
Palisades missed five consecutive free throws in the last six minutes that would prove to be costly.
“Our free-throw shooting has been a problem all year,” said James Paleno, Palisades head coach.
“In basketball you have to weather some storms,” said Santa Monica head coach James Hecht. An easy task, when you have Jordan Mathews holding the umbrella.
Mathews continued his trend of dominance in the state playoffs. Channeling his inner Black Mamba, the senior scored 41 points to go along with six rebounds and two steals.
Mathews has now scored 35 plus points in two consecutive playoff games.
“He dropped 41 points, I guess we didn‚Äôt do too well against him,” said Paleno. “I‚Äôm a big fan except for when they play us.”
However Mathews faced more adversity than usual when his first shot of the game air balled, and being repeatedly fouled hard on the way to the hoop.
“I knew they were going to foul me, you can‚Äôt dwell on anything,” Mathews said.
Ammar Rehman was the standout player for the Pali Dolphins, scoring 22 points.
“I just want to keep playing basketball, I didn‚Äôt want this to be the last game I play,” said Mathews, who after securing the CIF-Southern Section Division 1A championship, has his eyes on the coveted state championship.
“We just got a blue banner now we need the gold one,” said Mathews.
Santa Monica‚Äôs next game is the SoCal regional semifinals against Mission Hills scheduled for Tuesday at home. Tip-off is 7 p.m.