SAMOHI ‚Äî The Santa Monica Vikings took fourth place in the Santa Monica Tournament with a 68-60 loss to the Fairfax Lions on Saturday night at home.
Samohi sophomore guard Jonah Mathews led the way for the Vikings with a game-high 22 points while senior guard Victor Costa chipped in with 15 off the bench.
Sophomore guard Antoine Monroe had 20 points to lead the Lions and senior guard Sage Woodruff added 17 points.
Mathews dominated the first quarter, starting with a four-point play after getting fouled and draining a shot from downtown. Fairfax shot back with a 5-0 run to take the lead, but the frame was close throughout, ending in a 15-14 Lions lead.
Mathews had 12 points in the opening quarter, but just 10 points the rest of the game.
“They just face-guarded him and tried to frustrate him,” Samohi head coach James Hecht said. “They didn‚Äôt make it easy for him to get open looks or to catch the ball. It was a good game plan.”
Fairfax came out in the second quarter with four straight points in less than a minute, forcing a Vikings timeout. The Lions extended their lead to 27-18 with a 12-4 run.
But Samohi increased their defensive intensity, forcing turnovers and scoring as a result. Senior guard Chris Johnson‚Äôs free throw capped a 9-0 Vikings run to tie the game at 27.
Fairfax answered Samohi‚Äôs spurt with two 3-pointers by Monroe and a bucket by sophomore forward/center Babacar Thiombane to end the half with a 35-31 advantage.
The game remained contentious in the third. Mathews pulled the Vikings to within two with a 3-pointer, but was immediately answered by Woodruff‚Äôs shot from beyond the arc. On one Lions possession, Samohi was able to intercept a pass and ignite a fast break, but then turned the ball over, leading to a basket for Fairfax and a 43-36 deficit.
“We played really hard together, but tonight, there were three or four possessions where we didn‚Äôt find our man or we didn‚Äôt rotate and those were buckets that (the Lions) got,” Mathews said.
Samohi made some noise late in the quarter when senior guard Ray Mancini stole the ball and knocked down an elbow jumper to cut the Lion lead to just one. But Fairfax answered again, putting together a 6-0 run and ending the frame leading 52-45.
The Vikings cut the deficit to three in the fourth after a pair of Costa free throws, but Fairfax ran off an 8-2 run punctuated by a vicious two-hand dunk by senior forward/center Oleesameeka Nwachee, sealing the victory.
The Vikings stumbled in the face of pressure defense from the Lions all night, often having trouble getting the ball across mid court.
“They were just trying to disrupt our flow and it took us a while to adjust to that,” Hecht said. “I thought as the game went on, our execution got better.”
Mathews feels that these last two losses can teach the team to be better in the future. Samohi is now 2-2 on the season.
“We need to become more mentally tough,” Mathews said. “Two losses can get you mentally. We just need to come together as a unit and play together to win the next two games.”