SAMOHI — Santa Monica penned another chapter in its historic postseason run.
The boys from Samohi routed Mission Hills, 51-34, on Tuesday at home to advance to the regional final of the CIF-State Boys Division I Basketball Championship and a third matchup with Loyola on Saturday.
The No. 1 seeded Vikings’ current run includes the championship in CIF-Southern Section Division IA and now three wins in the state tournament, the most in school history.
“This is a zoo in here,” said Samohi head coach James Hecht amid a packed gym following the game. “We just tried to cause havoc, that’s what we do.”
Samohi deployed a pressing defense that dogged ball handlers all the way down the court, keeping No. 4 seed Mission Hills from setting up its half-court offense built around 7-foot center Kameron Rooks.
Even when the towering Rooks got the ball, he was confronted by two, and at times three, defenders. Rooks would lead his team with 17 points on the night, but it was too little to stem Samohi’s tide.
The early minutes of the game saw Rooks score Mission Hills’ first five points, looking every bit like a dominant big man.
That’s when Samohi put the clamps on. From there, he was held to just 12 points for over three quarters of the game.
Hecht realized after watching film on Mission Hills that Rooks was their centerpiece. He figured that if his Vikings could keep him out of the paint and on the move they had a chance to limit his impact.
Samohi big men Spencer Cramer and Chris Smith were tasked with guarding Rooks, pestering him into an off night.
“I’m really proud of Spencer and Chris,” Samohi point guard Trevis Jackson said. “They weren’t intimidated by his size.”
The strategy worked as the rest of Mission Hills’ roster struggled to match Samohi’s energy en route to the big loss.
Samohi senior Jordan Mathews again led the Vikings with 18 points and helped spearhead a defense that was unrelenting throughout the contest.
Fellow senior Jackson chipped in 12 in victory.
Despite Samohi’s up-tempo attack, Mission Hills was within 8 points with 5:56 left in the fourth quarter. But a Mathews’ dunk put the Vikings up by 10 and sent the home crowd into a frenzy.
The dunk proved to be the momentum Samohi needed to secure the win.
“They are leaving behind a legacy,” Hecht said of his seniors. “Each day they are rewriting the history books. We want to hold on to them as long as we can, so we have to keep winning. This is a very special group that will always be remembered at Santa Monica High School.”
For Hecht’s players, they are just trying to take it all in.
“It’s crazy,” Mathews said. “It’s like something out of a weird dream.”
The ride isn’t over for Samohi, which has a date with traditional power house Loyola, the No. 6 seed in the region. The game will be the third time Samohi has faced the Cubs this year, with both ending in defeat. Both sides even faced off during a scrimmage with Loyola getting the best of Samohi yet again.
The game is scheduled for Saturday at Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario, Calif. The game tips-off at 4 p.m. The winner will advance to the state championship game against the Northern California winner in Sacramento.