SAMOHI — Santa Monica High’s campus was excited all week for a first place Ocean League basketball showdown against rival Beverly Hills on Friday.
Yet it all seemed to slip away for the Vikings in the opening minutes of a 58-45 loss to the Normans.
Santa Monica never led as Beverly Hills began the game on a 9-2 run, held a 13-5 lead at the end of the first quarter and pushed their advantage to 20 points with four minutes left until half-time.
It was not how Santa Monica head coach James Hecht wanted his team to start the contest.
“Not at all. I give all the credit to Beverly; they jumped out on us early. We did not respond until the deficit was too large to overcome.” Hecht said.
The Vikings had trouble stopping Norman point guard Siavash Yektafar. The senior had a 30 points performance, including four three-pointers.
Santa Monica’s leading scorer, Jonah Mathews, had 14 points but was held to only two points in the first half as the Beverly Hills defense prevented him for touching the ball.
“The last time we played them, I scored a lot. They wanted to shut me down and did a good job of it in the first half,” said Mathews.
Another factor for their poor first half according to Mathews and senior point guard Ray Mancini was the large contingent of Beverly Hills’ fans that got rowdy after the Normans took the early lead.
“We were undisciplined in the first quarter and let the crowd get to us,” Mancini said. “We were trying to shut the crowd up with one shot.”
Mathews followed up on the size of the crowd.
“It was a hyped game, I did not think [Beverly] would bring that many fans.” Mathews said.
Santa Monica trailed 42-29 at half-time and by the same 13 points at the end of the third quarter.
They seemed to finally get some momentum when back-to-back three-point baskets by Chris Johnson and Mathews were followed by a Mikhail Brown put back as a Vikings 10-2 run cut the Beverly Hills lead down to four.
However, Santa Monica could never get any closer as Beverly Hills’ guard Ryan Manoocheri drilled a three-pointer to end the rally.
“We cut in down to four then had a couple of turnovers in a row. Beverly did not have many turnovers tonight. They kept their poise and composure,” Hecht said.
Beverly Hills (17-8, 7-1 Ocean League) struggled at the free throw line down the stretch last year in Santa Monica but made 9 of 12 from the charity stripe in the final five minutes.
It was a tough way to lose to a rival on senior night, but Mancini knows his team fought to the bitter end.
“We kept battling and battling. We were going down swinging and we kept swinging,” said Mancini who had seven points. “We gave them a good fight but they beat us in 12 rounds.”
The loss drops Santa Monica (14-10, 6-2) into a second-place tie in the Ocean League standings with Inglewood.
They still have a chance to claim a share of the conference title if Inglewood defeats Beverly Hills and the Vikings win their final two games against Hawthorne and Morningside this week.