SAMOHI — The Vikings, the second seed in this year’s California Interscholastic Federation Southern Section Division 1A Playoffs, are doing their best not to overlook the 31st seeded Arcadia Apaches.
It doesn’t make it easier that Santa Monica’s girls basketball team hasn’t even seen game film on Arcadia, but both the coach and the team’s star player are confident the Vikings have the weapons to win tonight’s 7 p.m. first round game at Samohi.
“We still have to focus on every game,” senior guard Thea Lemberger said. “But, if we play consistently there shouldn’t be any problems, I don’t think.”
Head Coach Marty Verdugo agrees that Arcadia (9-15 overall, 5-9 in Pacific League play) shouldn’t pose much of a challenge to the Ocean League champions, but as most coaches do he is careful to not dismiss the possibility of a major upset.
“They don’t have a strong record,” Verdugo said. “I don’t want to be fooled by that.
“Our team has been taught that we have to come in and play Santa Monica basketball.”
He expects Arcadia, a team that has a relatively short lineup, to deploy a full-court press. It may pose problems for Samohi (20-6 overall, 10-0 in league), which will be without the services of junior Moriah Faulk. The recent transfer injured her knee during the final game of the regular season when she collided with a Hawthorne player.
Verdugo said that Faulk, who has shown improvement since the injury last week, will miss the first round game and perhaps more. He said he expects her back by the third or fourth game of the playoffs provided they advance that far.
Samohi made it to the semifinals last season only to lose to Canyon Springs, which is the top seed in the division this year.
Despite playing without Faulk, Lemberger and Verdugo both said the team will continue to thrive without her.
“We have become balanced,” Verdugo said. “We really shifted to a balanced scoring attack.”
Offensive balance is a bit of a departure for the Vikings. Early in the season, Samohi relied heavily on the UCLA-bound Lemberger to do the heavy lifting on offense. That was before Faulk and fellow transfer Bianka Balthazar were cleared to play during the Ocean League portion of the schedule. Verdugo said that the pair of transfers have eased the load off of Lemberger and have opened up the offense as a result.
“We’re trusting ourselves a little more,” he said. “We’re trusting our teammates more.”