SAMOHI — Even without a few key players, Samohi’s girls are off and running.
Coming off a tough loss to Summit in the Brea Olinda Tournament on Wednesday, the Vikings rebounded nicely to exact a bit of revenge on a Canyon Springs team that knocked Samohi out of the semifinals of last season’s California Interscholastic Federation Division I-A playoffs. The 65-60 win on Thursday came about despite the fact that the Vikings have yet to play a pair of transfers who Head Coach Marty Verdugo thinks will give his team the guns to blast their way to another deep trip into the playoffs.
“Revenge is sweet,” Verdugo said. “For us, it says a lot about our program.
“We played about 11 [players] deep into our rotation and still found a win. You build character in wins like that.”
The victory over Canyon Springs was especially big for senior Thea Lemberger. The UCLA-bound guard fouled out of the Summit game with a handful of minutes remaining with the Vikings clinging to a seven point lead. Summit rallied for the victory without the Vikings’ top playmaker on the floor.
Verdugo said jokingly that Lemberger has been told she isn’t allowed to foul out again this season. She responded Thursday with her first 30-point game of the season against Canyon Springs.
“It was good because I don’t like them that much,” Lemberger said of Canyon Springs. “But, they are fun to play against.”
She said that a number of Canyon Springs players were running their mouths during the whole game giving her that much more motivation to send them home with a loss.
“They aren’t very good sports,” she said.
Verdugo agreed that Canyon Springs was a bit vocal and noisy, but said that the best part about the victory was that they were predicted by a number of insiders to be the top team in their division.
“It was one of the top five wins since I’ve been here,” said Verdugo, who has been head coach for four seasons. “The mistakes that they made [against Summit] they didn’t make again [on Thursday against Canyon Springs].”
As usual, Lemberger paced the offense on Thursday, but she had help from fellow guard Kristina Johnson and sophomore forward Sabrina Norton.
“Sabrina was a monster on the boards,” Verdugo said.
The 2-1 Vikings now turn their attention to the fifth place game of the Brea Olinda against Narbonne on Saturday. Samohi will again be without the services of junior transfers Moriah Faulk and Bianka Balthazar, who have yet to be cleared by the CIF to play. Verdugo hopes they will be available within a week once the required paperwork is completed.
“We don’t want to do anything and have CIF come back and say they weren’t allowed to play,” Verdugo said.
Once Samohi completes the Brea Olinda Tournament this weekend, the Vikings will begin the Redondo Tournament on Monday. This will give Samohi another chance at revenge; this time against Long Beach’s Millikan High School, who knocked the Vikings out of last year’s tournament with a buzzer beater.
Later this month, Samohi will take part in the massive Nike Tournament of Champions in Arizona. They will be part of a field of 16 teams that Verdugo expects to tout a number of high-powered teams that will give his Vikings a good idea of where they stand going forward into the season.
“(The tournament) is huge for us,” Verdugo said of the trip to Arizona.