DRIVING: Santa Monica High School's Chris Johnson dribbles past a Hawthorne defender Wednesday night at Samohi. The Vikings went on to win the Ocean League game, 61-45. (Paul Alvarez Jr. editor@smdp.com)

DRIVING: Santa Monica High School’s Chris Johnson dribbles past a Hawthorne defender Wednesday night at Samohi. The Vikings went on to win the Ocean League game, 61-45. (Paul Alvarez Jr. editor@smdp.com)

SAMOHI — Santa Monica boys’ basketball kept their league title hopes alive Wednesday night with a 61-45 victory over Hawthorne, staying in a three-way tie for first place in the Ocean League in the process.

Samohi’s Jonah Mathews scored 24 points and grabbed six rebounds. Chris Johnson got into the action as well for the Vikings, finishing with a double-double, good for 14 points and 11 rebounds.

Johnson was a scorching four-for-six from the three-point line, and the much needed help was appreciated by Mathews.

“It makes it very easy when everybody is contributing and it gets everybody better,” Mathews said about Johnson’s performance.

The Vikings played their third game in six days, and it showed for the first two quarters of play taking a meager 30-25 lead into half-time.

Samohi had to quickly recover from a disappointing 80-53 loss to Brentwood last Saturday in the Fairfax State Preview. Santa Monica head coach James Hecht admitted the loss had the team a little down.

“We acknowledge we didn’t play well Saturday,” he said. “So we just tried to pick up the pieces and move ahead. Monday and Tuesday’s practices lacked a little bit of emotion. I think we were still down about that one but it’s good to get a game in, and while it was sloppy at times the kids played hard and fought through and came out with the victory.”

The Cougars pulled to within 40-37 to start the fourth quarter after going on a 10-4 run when Hecht had a few words for his squad.

“I told them we got to start playing to win, and not trying to lose,” Hecht said.

They started playing to win midway through the fourth quarter finally pulling away from Hawthorne with a 46-38 lead with 6 minutes and 24 seconds on the clock.

Samohi’s Ray Mancini started it off after stealing a pass, going the length of the court and laying it in. Then, two plays later, passing it to Victor Costa for a fast break dunk.

The win keeps Santa Monica in a three-way tie for first with Inglewood and rival Beverly Hills. Samohi is the defending champ.

“This is why we come to practice every day. It will be a very interesting second half of league,” Hecht said. “I think every game is going to have a playoff type atmosphere and playoff type meaning attached to it. It’s going to be interesting. We’re definitely going to have our hands full.”

Hecht admires Mathews for taking on the scoring load in most games and likes how he’s handling the process. His older brother Jordan, now playing at Cal, led the team to the CIF state championship game last year.

“I give him a lot of credit for a sophomore … throwing him into the fire because he is getting everybody’s best effort night in and night out and he’s done a great job.”

The Vikings will play at Inglewood on Friday. The game begins at 7:30 p.m.

Samohi won the previous meeting between the two teams earlier this month.

 

editor@smdp.com