SAMOHI — Santa Monica’s boys’ basketball team scored only 11 points in the third quarter and fell to the Rancho Cucamonga Cougars, 74-56, in the second round of the CIF-Southern Section Division 1AA playoffs on Tuesday night.
Sophomore guard Jonah Mathews led the Samohi Vikings with 20 points while senior guard Ray Mancini added 17.
For the Cougars, senior forward Daylan Lawrence led all scorers with 25 points.
The loss marks the end of a season in which the Vikings finished with an overall record of 17-10, going 8-2 in Ocean League play.
Samohi head coach James Hecht recalled only positives when he looked back on the year.
“I thought we had a good year,” Hecht said. “I think we learned a lot. I think we grew a lot as a team considering the number of players that we had new to varsity basketball.”
The Vikings got off to a slow start and were forced to take a time-out after Rancho Cucamonga held an early 8-1 lead by capitalizing on Samohi’s turnovers. Late in the first quarter, Mathews scored off an assist by Mancini, which brought the Cougar lead down to four.
Mathews, who only had two first-quarter points, got going in the second frame, scoring eight of his 10 first-half points in the quarter. The Vikings were able to cut their deficit to two after sophomore forward Mikhail Brown made a layup, bringing to the score to 25-23 in favor of the Cougars.
Rancho Cucamonoga led at the half, 40-32.
Then the third quarter happened. The Cougars started off by opening up a 13-point lead after senior guard Victor Joseph converted a layup. Samohi answered with two back-to-back 3-pointers from senior guard Chris Johnson and Mathews, but Rancho Cucamonga ripped a 16-4 run down Santa Monica’s throat to end the frame with a 62-43 lead.
“A lot of our turnovers unfortunately led to baskets by them, and I think we got a little deflated,” Hecht said about his team’s third-quarter struggles. “I called time-outs, tried to calm us down a little bit. But I just think some of those turnovers that led to baskets for them were momentum killers.”
The Cougars kept their foot on the gas in the final stanza and wouldn’t let Samohi get close. On one Vikings possession, senior guard Nick Culver started a Rancho Cucamonga fast break with a blocked shot which led to a one-handed throw down by Lawrence at the other end.
Mancini said Samohi’s high turnover rate in Tuesday’s game had more to do with their offense than the Cougars’ defense.
“We were rushing a little bit too much,” Mancini said. “We were trying to be one-on-five instead of sharing the ball. We were just trying to go too fast and trying to shut the crowd up.”
On Friday, Samohi torched the Montebello Oilers by 31 points in the first found of the playoffs. Mancini said the difference between the two games was the team shared the ball more.
“The first game, we had three, four players in double digits,” Mancini said. “We just played freely. We cared for each other and just played for each other.”
Hecht said when the dust of the loss settles, his team can take a step back and look fondly at their success throughout the year.
“I think we could be proud of what we accomplished,” Hecht said. “Third year in a row winning league, second round of the playoffs. We fought the fight.”