SACRAMENTO, Calif. — When Santa Monica’s leading scorer Jordan Mathews landed awkwardly on his back midway through the first quarter, it was a terrible sign of things to come.
With the senior guard injured and spending most of the game on the bench, the Vikings struggled offensively in a 73-57 loss to Pleasant Grove in the CIF State Boys Basketball Division I Championship Game on Friday at Sacramento’s Sleep Train Arena.
Mathews hit his tailbone on the ground after being fouled on a shot attempt and the affect was immediate as he missed two of his three free throw attempts.
“I came down and got up too quick. I felt if I got up quick then it would go away. It hurt right above my butt and it expanded down to my leg and I could not run,” said Mathews about the fall.
The Vikings held an early 10-9 lead after a put-back by Mathews, but it would be the last time that Santa Monica would hold an advantage as Mathews was severely slowed down by the injury.
Pleasant Grove’s Matthew Haynes closed out the first quarter with a three-point jumper just before the buzzer to give them an 18-14 lead and the Eagles would never look back.
With Mathews sitting on the bench, there was little that could be done to slow down or counter Pleasant Grove’s trio of quick guards. They continued to attack the basket and shot well from the field, something that did not happen much at Sleep Train Arena on Friday.
Three players from Pleasant Grove were in double figures as Hayes had 19 points, Malik Thames scored 16 and Colfax Nordquist added 13.
“We crawled back, but they kept hitting their jump shots,” said senior forward Chris Smith, who had a game-high 20 points for Santa Monica.
Pleasant Grove shot 48 percent from the field, the best of any of the 12 teams that played at Sleep Train Arena during championship games and held a 43-32 rebound advantage.
Santa Monica had open looks too but only made 34 percent of their shots including two of 12 three-pointers.
“We got out-rebounded, and got outplayed in various aspects of the game tonight. The margin of error as the game went on got smaller and smaller and we could not capitalize,” said Santa Monica head coach James Hecht.
Samohi’s final chance came right after halftime when the Vikings scored the first four points of the third quarter on baskets by Smith and Erron Vaughn to cut the Eagles lead down to five at 36-31. It would be short-lived when Mathews spent nearly the entire quarter on the bench after reinjuring his tailbone and picking up a fourth foul on a charge.
Pleasant Grove took advantage by going on a 20-9 run to close out the third quarter and slowly pulled away from Santa Monica extending their lead by as much as 20 points.
Mathews had a season-low nine points and fouled out in the opening minute of the fourth quarter.
Vaughn was the only other Viking besides Smith to score in double-figures with 10 points and Trevis Jackson finished with eight.
Even in defeat, this year’s team left a large legacy at Santa Monica with one of the best performances in the school’s 119 year history.
Santa Monica had a magical journey, from winning the Division 1A Southern Section title to their state playoff run.
From having to hold off a ferocious fourth quarter rally by Narbonne in the opening round of the state playoffs to a thrilling home overtime victory over rival Palisades in the quarterfinals in a sold-out gym, it was a galvanizing run. It was followed up by Santa Monica avenging two previous losses to Loyola when Mathews hit a game-winning three-point shot in the State Regional Finals that gave the Vikings a chance to play for the state title.
“[An] unforgettable season. Not only because of what we did this year, but where we started,” said Mathews. “It’s been a crazy ride.”