SAMOHI — Santa Monica will be the center of the SoCal girls basketball world this weekend.
Dubbed the Westside Challenge, the hoops showcase in its third year will feature a roster of teams that many like events would envy. Taking place Saturday at Santa Monica High School, the event features national powerhouse Mater Dei, San Diego stalwart La Jolla Country Day, Torrance’s Bishop Montgomery and host Samohi among others.
Samohi head coach Marty Verdugo created the event to showcase some of the Westside’s premiere teams against teams from across Southern California.
“I’m very proud of [the event],” Verdugo said. “It has given us a chance to introduce our program on a little bit bigger scale.”
That exposure has worked as Verdugo has built Samohi into a regional power unafraid to face stiff competition. That has paid off as the basketball powers that be have recognized Samohi as a team worthy of its current No. 22 state ranking by MaxPreps.
But, aside from the notoriety, Verdugo said that he just wants to host some good basketball games on his home turf.
“Each year it has gotten better,” he said. “It’s a great day. Our gym creates a lot of excitement because it’s an old-school noisy place to play.”
This year, Samohi will play La Jolla Country Day, ranked No. 9 in the state by MaxPreps, in the capper at 7 p.m.
“We knew that we wanted that kind of challenge,” Verdugo said of Country Day. “They are well coached and really get after it.”
For Mater Dei, this will be the second straight year playing in the challenge. Last season the Monarchs defeated host Samohi.
“I’m really excited about returning, we’re looking forward to it,” Mater Dei head coach Kevin Kiernan said.
The day begins as Samohi’s frosh/soph team plays Taft at 10 a.m. That is followed by a junior varsity matchup featuring the same pair of teams. The varsity action begins at 1 p.m. as Beverly Hills takes on Taft. Ventura versus Marlborough is next at 2:30 p.m. Fellow Ocean League team Inglewood takes on Gahr at 4 p.m. Mater Dei will take on Bishop Montgomery at 5:30 with Samohi ending the night against La Jolla Country Day at 7 p.m.