SAMOHI — Their championship hopes were almost dashed after blowing a 15-point lead, but Santa Monica boys’ basketball was able to hold off the Centaurs and lived to play for another Ocean League championship.
The Vikings endured a second half surge by Culver City to come away with a 68-55 victory that set them up for a showdown with rival Beverly Hills on Friday night at home. The two teams are currently tied for first place with 6-1 records.
Samohi saw their lead evaporate to 56-50 midway through the fourth quarter before they started clamping down and finally pulling away for the victory.
Jonah Mathews, who finished the game with 23 points, hit a pair of three-pointers that put them up by seven late in the fourth quarter. Two plays later, Mikhail Brown was fouled after making a lay-up putting the Vikings up by 10 with 1:28 remaining in the game.
“We couldn’t afford to lose tonight,” Mathews said. “I was like we have to lock up [defensively] because they were scoring easy buckets and they were getting to the line at will.”
The Centaurs were getting to the free-throw line at will as well, especially Jordin Williams who scored all of his nine points in the second half and was a perfect six-for-six from the fee-throw line.
Santa Monica started the game on fire taking a 22-4 first quarter lead behind Mikhail Brown and Travis Fujita. Emerging offensive threat Fujita scored eight of his 13 points in that quarter off of easy penetration to the basket. Brown, who finished with 12 points, had his way in the paint scoring with ease.
The Vikings took a 39-25 half-time lead after Chris Johnson made a buzzer-beating three-pointer. He finished with six points.
“We knew Culver City wasn’t going to lie down and play dead,” Santa Monica head coach James Hecht said. “We know each and every game carries some meaning to it and has a lot of value.”
Culver City started rallying midway through the third quarter and cut the deficit to 12 to the start of the fourth. They got as close as 56-50 with 4:09 left in the fourth quarter, but their first quarter performance left them with too much to overcome.
“They came at us and we were not ready for that intensity,” Centaur head coach Adam Eskridge said. “We just weren’t there mentally to start the game.”
With the victory the Vikings will play for a shot at a league title. The Normans beat Santa Monica 55-47 earlier this season.
Mathews only has one thing on is mind when he plays them.
“We got to beat them and protect our home court,” said Mathews. Both teams come into the game on a three-game winning streak.
The Beverly Hills game starts at 7:30 tonight at Samohi.