SAMOHI — Down by 10 at halftime to Crenshaw, Santa Monica didn’t look themselves.
Shoulders slumped, hands on hips, the game was getting away from them until senior guard Jordan Mathews scored 5 quick points to open the third quarter cutting Crenshaw’s lead in half and giving Samohi boys’ basketball the boost it needed to power to a 82-74 win on Wednesday in the Santa Monica Tournament.
The victory propels the Vikings to their first semifinals of their tournament in the three years it has been played. Awaiting Samohi is a formidable Loyola team that sent the Vikings to their lone defeat on the young season.
“I felt that during the first half I was coaching against emotions,” Samohi head coach James Hecht said. “This shows that we have a difference in our mindset. We can be down by double digits and still fight back.”
Crenshaw opened the game with a barrage, racing out to a 24-16 lead at the end of the first quarter. The second period was much of the same with Crenshaw matching Samohi shot for shot, setting up a 10-point lead at the half.
That’s when Mathews began his 19-point second-half barrage with a three on the first possession after halftime. Crenshaw turned the ball over on the ensuing possession setting up a Mathews layup.
Mathews’ effort not only sliced the lead in half, it gave the Vikings hope after a lackluster first half for the team ranked No. 14 in the state by Cal-Hi Sports.
“Our coaches talked about intensity during halftime,” said Mathews, who finished with a game-high 35 points. “They said we’ve worked too hard to let this happen.”
It wouldn’t take long for Samohi to take the lead just minutes after Mathews’ heroics. Senior Trevis Jackson hit a 3-pointer to tie it at 45-45 and fellow starting guard Erron Vaughn hit a jumper to put them ahead for good.
Crenshaw didn’t roll over, though. They would scratch back to within a basket at 74-72 with just a minute and a half left in the game. Consecutive scores by Samohi’s Troy Maloney and William Perez on the next two possessions ultimately sunk Crenshaw’s hope of a comeback of their own.
“They are a really tough team,” Mathews said of Crenshaw. “They’ll do big things in their league this year.”
With touted Oaks Christian and Crenshaw behind Samohi in the first two rounds of the tournament, an even more potent Loyola awaits in the semifinals. The game will be a rematch of the final of the South Bay Classic last week that saw Loyola overcome a sizable deficit to send Samohi (5-1) to its only loss of the year.
The teams also scrimmaged before the season with Loyola winning that one, too. To say it’s a grudge match is an understatement.
Mathews said that it helps and it hinders to see the same team so many times. Samohi may have got the drop on what Loyola is all about, but so did Loyola.
“It goes both ways,” he said. “But I think it does help to know their personnel and what to expect.”
Hecht feels that both meetings could have swung the other way and is pleased to get another shot at the Cubs and their unblemished 6-0 record and No. 12 ranking in the state.
“We were hoping to get this opportunity when we made the schedule,” Hecht said. “We just need to be more sound offensively.”
The game is scheduled for Friday at 8 p.m. at Samohi.