SAMOHI — After building a commanding 20-point third quarter lead Saturday at home, Santa Monica High School’s girls’ basketball team had to hold on for dear life to secure a 59-47 second round playoff win over a feisty Laguna Hills.
When Samohi sophomore Briana Harris hit a 3-pointer with 1:50 remaining in the third quarter it seemed that the Vikings would cruise to an easy California Interscholastic Federation Southern Section Division 1AA playoff victory. Then, Laguna Hill’s Maddy Ziering-Smith happened.
Laguna Hills’ top player off the bench entered the game and immediately helped lead a charge that saw the Hawks end the third-quarter on a 7-0 run that reduced Samohi’s lead to 46-33.
Down by 13 a minute into the fourth quarter, Ziering-Smith was fouled hard by Harris as she attempted a lay-up. After swatting the ball away, Harris was called for taunting giving four free throws and possession of the ball to Laguna HIlls. After hitting three of four foul shots, the lead was reduced 10.
With the lead at a manageable margin, the Hawks led by Ziering-Smith would whittle the lead down to five with two minutes to play, but were unable to get any closer as Samohi’s Moriah Faulk converted five of six free throws in the closing minutes to secure the win. Faulk finished the night with a game-high 19 points.
“Nobody said it would be easy,” Samohi head coach Marty Verdugo said. “[Laguna Hills] just kept battling.”
Despite facing a fierce Laguna Hills charge, Faulk said that she was confident that her team was superior and would weather the run.
“We just had to play our game,” Faulk said. “We were confident the whole time.”
The Vikings’ fast-paced style served them well in those final minutes as they pushed the ball up court forcing Laguna Hills to foul as time ticked down. It didn’t hurt that Faulk had a hot shooting hand all night — both on the floor and the free-throw line.
Samohi senior Bianka Balthazar added 12 points as did sophomore Harris, who fouled out during the play involving Ziering-Smith.
“They are terrific,” Laguna Hills head coach Jim Martin said of Samohi. “They really have some amazing players in [Faulk} and [Balthazar}. Those are some big-time girls.”
Next for the Vikings is a date with national powerhouse Long Beach Poly in the quarter finals on Wednesday. The Vikings, who won the title in Division 1A last season, will be making a second trip to Long Beach this season, with the previous meeting ending in a 65-48 loss during the regular season.
“We’ll try to build a big lead and hold on for dear life,” Verdugo said with a laugh. “I’m feeling confident in our chances.”
Samohi looks for boosters
Samohi officials are organizing a booster bus for the CIF-SS playoff game at Long Beach Poly on Wednesday.
The bus will be leaving campus at 4:30 p.m. It will be $13 for adults and $10 for students. The fare includes a ticket to the game.
Contact Assistant Coach Marissa Silvestri at email@example.com for more information.