HIGH SCHOOL BOYS’ BASKETBALL
SAMOHI — An entirely new starting five led Santa Monica boys’ basketball to a season-opening 63-55 win over rival Palisades on Monday at home.
Coming off an appearance in the state Division 1 championship, Samohi took to the court with a decidedly new look, but head coach James Hecht falls short of calling it a rebuilding year.
“I never try to use the word ‘rebuilding,’” Hecht said. “It’s high school basketball, you never really rebuild. You just restock.”
The meeting of Westside rivals came as part of the first game of pool play in the prestigious Santa Monica Tournament.
Last year, during Samohi’s run to the championship game, the Vikings had to hold off a feisty Palisades team in overtime in the state playoffs.
While the stakes were considerably lower on Monday, the competition was just as high.
The game began slow enough with free throws outnumbering field goals in the first quarter. Samohi would end the frame with a slim 12-11 lead.
The second quarter was much the same, but both teams’ offenses opened up a bit with Samohi exiting the first half up, 25-23.
Samohi was led in the first half by a pair of underclassmen who aren’t afraid to jack up a shot. Guards Nuwr’iyl Williams and Jonah Mathews each scored eight points in the half.
The third quarter saw a once-tight Samohi team play with a bit more fluidity, ending the third with a comfortable seven point advantage.
But, Palisades was far from out of it.
Led by guard Aaron Johnson, Pali cut Samohi’s lead to two at 57-55 with just a minute left in the game, but the charge ended there.
Mathews, younger brother of last year’s team leader and current Cal player Jordan Mathews, sunk a short jumper to give Samohi a lead that they wouldn’t relinquish.
Williams led the Vikings with 22 points with Mathews adding 17. Johnson totaled 22 for Pali.
“We played well for a new team,” Williams said. “We’re still working on some things, though.”
Hecht was encouraged by the win, but agreed that this edition of Samohi basketball has a ways to go to live up to last year’s prolific run.
“You can’t really compare the two teams,” Hecht said, “it isn’t fair to these guys.”
Next for Samohi in the Santa Monica Tournament is a matchup with Harvard-Westlake today at 8 p.m.