SAMOHI — Thankfully for the boys basketball team, Santa Monica College is close to home.
While the site of the California Interscholastic Federation Southern Section Division I-A boys basketball semifinal is technically considered a neutral location, the Vikings will certainly play the role of the home team today against Tesoro High School.
“I look forward to playing down the street [at SMC],” Santa Monica High School’s Head Coach James Hecht said. “It will be nice not having to get on the 10 Freeway.”
The Vikings have literally had a wild ride along the road to the division’s final four. Initially, Samohi had to travel to Montclair High School in the first round. Unfortunately, the Vikings got stuck in traffic on the way to the campus and didn’t hit the court until just 20 minutes before tip off.
The no. 11 seeded Vikings went on to win the game, 74-53, setting up a second round home game against Chaparral. A buzzer-beating lay-up by senior Kunnu Shofu later and the Vikings were on the way to the third round at Perris High School. The 85-mile ride down the I-10 Freeway ended with a 68-66 overtime victory in the quarter finals.
With all that travel behind them, Hecht and his players are eager to play in front of a home crowd tonight at SMC.
“It was a long trip out there, but our guys kept their focus,” Hecht said after practice on Thursday. “I’m proud of our guys.”
The travel may have got to the Vikings as they struggled during a first quarter that ended with Samohi down 9-16. Trailing by seven at the half, Hecht said his players settled down and began to climb back into contention.
Up by three with seconds to play, the no. 11 seeded Vikings had a win within reach when Perris hit a three-pointer at the buzzer sending the game into overtime.
Senior Donte Bowie came up big in overtime, scoring four of the Vikings’ 10 points. Bowie finished the game with 14 points. Shofu tallied 21 in the victory. Soloman Singer added 10.
“We had good contributions from a lot of guys,” Hecht said. “We just kept chipping away.”
With the excessive travel behind them, the Vikings now have to contend with a Tesoro team that is the no. 2 seed in the division. Hecht said he expects Tesoro to put up a serious fight.
“They have a good basketball program,” Hecht said. “They are very patient with the ball, very deliberate with their offense.”
After reviewing video of a couple of Tesoro’s games, Hecht came to the conclusion that its post players are going to test his big men.
“We’re going to stick to our style,” he said. “We’ll have to pull something out of our bag of tricks to win this one.”