SAMOHI ‚Äî Beverly Hills was just minutes away from pulling off a considerable upset of Santa Monica when things clicked for the Vikings on Wednesday.
Samohi would walk away with a 63-62 Ocean League home win, but it didn‚Äôt come easy.
With four minutes to go in the game, Beverly Hills‚Äô Ronan Massana sunk a 12-footer that gave the Normans a 10-point cushion. The blow forced Samohi‚Äôs boys‚Äô basketball coach James Hecht to call a time-out, giving his Vikings a chance to regroup.
Samohi‚Äôs Erron Vaughn began the comeback with a gritty drive to the basket amidst a group of Norman defenders. Jordan Mathews followed with a pair of free throws and a 3-pointer from the corner and the Vikings were in business at 58-56 with two minutes to play.
“We just believe in each other,” said Mathews, who finished with a game-high 37 points. “It was just time to be men.”
Seemingly on their heels, Beverly Hills answered with a bucket by Justin Ifekwunigue that pushed the lead back to 4 with roughly 90 seconds to go.
That‚Äôs when things got sloppy for Beverly Hills and hopeful for Samohi.
After a Samohi time-out, Mathews again struck with a 3-pointer that brought the Vikings to within one just seconds after Ifekwunigue‚Äôs deuce.
On the next possession, Beverly Hills‚Äô Siavash Yektafar was called for a crucial travel giving Samohi a possession that resulted in a missed jumper by Troy Maloney with just over a minute to go.
Misfortune struck again for Beverly Hills as Dominique Duque lost his footing on the rebound and was called for a second key travel.
Maloney made up for his previous miss with a short jump shot that put Samohi up 61-60, a lead that would prove to be fleeting.
With less than a minute on the clock and down by just a lone point, the Normans‚Äô Ben Cohen drew a foul in the lane, but missed on a pair of free throws, only to be saved by a rebound and put-back by Jalen Sands that had the Beverly Hills side of the gym rocking.
With chants of “scoreboard” coming from the Norman faithful, Beverly Hills clamped down on defense again, forcing Hecht to call a time-out.
“We just had to look deep,” Mathews said. “We knew that with the crowd so loud coach couldn‚Äôt lead us with his voice when we were on the court.”
Whatever the Vikings discussed during their time-out seemed to work when senior forward Chris Smith sunk a shot deep in the lane, nudging Samohi to a 63-62 lead with seconds left.
Beverly Hills was unable to convert on the next possession as time expired, sending Samohi to 3-0 in league play and Viking fans into a frenzy.
“They had a good game plan,” Hecht said of the underdog Normans. “We were fortunate to come away with a victory.”
The game was a mismatch coming in with Samohi ranked No. 1 in CIF-Southern Section Division 1A and No. 10 in the state on the latest CalHi Sports poll.
That did little to intimidate a rival Beverly Hills team (9-9, 2-1 in league) that seemingly always gives Samohi reason to sweat. It can be said that the two schools have a healthy dislike of each other as evidenced by the banter back and forth between backers of both schools during the tight contest.
“It was a wake up call,” Mathews said. “Everybody is coming after us in league.”
Next for Samohi is a road game at Morningside on Friday at 7:30 p.m.
Mathews, who has signed on to play at Cal next year, believes that Wednesday‚Äôs win will give the Vikings confidence as they pursue at the very least a long run into the playoffs.
“There was no quit for us,” he said. “We still have a lot of stuff to work on, but it‚Äôs just the little things with us.”