ANAHEIM, Calif. ‚Äî There will be an air of familiarity when Santa Monica faces El Toro in the final of the CIF-Southern Section Division 1A playoffs on Saturday.
Both teams like to spread it out. Both teams can put guard-heavy lineups on the court. And both teams can score the rock.
But, there‚Äôs one fundamental difference between the two schools: senior Samohi guard Jordan Mathews.
No. 2 seeded Samohi (24-6 overall) relies heavily on its heralded senior where El Toro (27-5 overall) has up to eight guys who are capable of going on a scoring binge.
The comparisons aren‚Äôt lost on El Toro head coach Todd Dixon, who has led the Chargers for 17 years.
“I know Santa Monica is going to try to pressure us and make us hurry,” Dixon said. “But, we have balance on offense. [Opponents] don‚Äôt know what you‚Äôre going to get.”
Dixon said that it isn‚Äôt unusual for his team to find scoring on the bench. He‚Äôs comfortable with game planning with the notion that sharing the ball is advantageous to his style of play.
After watching game film on the No. 1 seeded Chargers, Mathews noticed one thing off the bat.
“They can really shoot it,” said Mathews, who has averaged 24 points and 8 rebounds a game this season. “We‚Äôll press, but we have to be patient.
“Their offense wants you to make a mistake or to become impatient.”
Mathews believes that if Samohi sticks to what has gotten them to the final they should be fine.
On the opposing bench, El Toro knows that Mathews will have to be put in check if the Chargers are going to walk away with the crown.
Dixon plans on sending waves of defenders at Mathews on the perimeter.
“We have to make it difficult for him to get the ball in the open area,” Dixon said. “We‚Äôll be trying to mix things up when we face him.”
Samohi head coach James Hecht knows that Mathews will be keyed on, yet he‚Äôs confident that his complimentary players are up to the task if their top scorer is limited by El Toro‚Äôs defense.
“We have a lot of weapons. Jordan gets a lot of the attention, but we feel that we have other weapons, too,” Hecht said. “We just hope we can be a unit going in. We win as a team and we lose as a team.”
Dixon, while game planning for Mathews, believes that Samohi guards Trevis Jackson and Troy Maloney are capable of taking the pressure off the leading scorer with their quickness and mid-range offensive games.
An X-factor for Dixon is Samohi senior forward/center Chris Smith, who has averaged 8 points and 10 rebounds a game.
“They have a lot of things that can hurt you,” Dixon said. “It will be interesting to see how this plays out.”
The game is scheduled for 6 p.m. on Saturday at the Anaheim Convention Center.