SAMOHI ‚Äî Inglewood came into Santa Monica with the swagger, Samohi walked away with the win.
Despite missing star guard Nuwriyl Williams, who‚Äôs out with a knee injury, and a number of other players, Samohi boys‚Äô basketball was able to get the jump on the rival Sentinels on Wednesday with a double dose of guards Jonah Mathews and Travis Fujita.
The dynamic duo for the night combined for 30 points as the Samohi Vikings rallied back from a 23-20 half-time Inglewood lead to walk away with what became a commanding 52-40 victory at home.
“We fought tough after taking some bad shots in the first half,” said Fujita, who finished the night with a season-high 19 points. “I think we‚Äôre starting to click chemistry wise.”
Samohi entered the game 8-7 a season removed from appearing in the state championship game and winning the CIF-Southern Section Division 1A crown. With most of the roster moving on through graduation, a new group has been called on to lead the Vikings in their hopes to repeat as Ocean League champs.
From what Samohi head coach James Hecht saw on Wednesday, he‚Äôs hopeful that the Vikings can continue to mature and advance to notch more postseason accolades.
“I thought we were very physical,” Hecht said. “It was nice to see our guys play four quarters of quality basketball.”
Shrugging off the half-time deficit, Samohi came out in the third quarter with guns blazing.
Both Mathews and Fujita scored 8 points each in the quarter giving Samohi a comfortable 38-31 lead heading into the fourth.
Inglewood was able to hang in the game, cutting the Samohi lead to 45-40 with two and a half minutes remaining, but again Fujita came up with a big shot to ice the game in the final moments.
“I think we‚Äôre finally starting to know our roles,” Fujita said. “We‚Äôre starting to pick up our intensity.”
Samohi may be suffering through mid-season injuries, but the situation has opened doors for some of the Vikings‚Äô bench players like Fujita.
“Guys are getting opportunities and more minutes,” Hecht said. “Sometimes it forces guys to grow into new roles. I like what I‚Äôm seeing.”
With the win, Samohi improved to 9-7 and more importantly 1-0 in a competitive Ocean League.
Next for the Vikings is a road game at hated rival Culver City today at 7:30 p.m.
Culver City, a team Hecht expects to compete for a league championship, also began the league season on a high note by knocking off Morningside, 77-57, on Wednesday.
“We only have nine games left,” Hecht said of the season. “We have to enjoy it and make the most of it.”