SAMOHI — Head Coach Marty Verdugo hopes all the hard work pays off.

After a preseason filled with games against elite teams from SoCal to Arizona, Santa Monica’s girls basketball team (10-4 overall, 1-0 in league) finds itself facing a game against Ocean League rival Inglewood tonight at home that very well could be the biggest test of the season to date.

The meeting is the second matchup between the two schools with Inglewood coming out victorious in the Redondo Battle of the Beach tournament in December. Samohi’s top player Thea Lemberger played limited minutes in the first matchup. Also hurting the Vikings’ depth was the absence of transfer Moriah Faulk, who was not cleared to play by California Interscholastic Federation Southern Section officials. She has since been granted eligability and will be in the starting lineup tonight.

It was during that non-league game that Verdugo studied Inglewood, trying to make sense of what makes them go. He didn’t have to look further than the Sentinels’ star point guard, Hazel Ramirez.

He said that it isn’t her scoring that worries him, but her passing. It’s how she sets up teammates that has helped Inglewood vault to being ranked second in the current CIF-SS Division 3-AA poll. Santa Monica is currently ranked third in Division 1-A.

“There is no question they are considered the favorite [to win the league],” Verdugo said. “It’s either us or them.”

To slow Ramirez, Verdugo said that he has game planned different looks for the playmaker.

“She’s hard to guard one-on-one,” he said. “We’ll start with [point guard Kristina Johnson], but we’ll be mixing it up.”

He said that it’s her “shiftiness” and not her speed that gives defenders fits. He said her lateral movement creates passing lanes, giving her teammates easy shots.

Aside from Ramirez, who was the Ocean League player of the year last season, Verdugo said it’s junior forward Deajanae Scurry that may create the most matchup problems.

Her presence in the post makes Ramirez that much more potent. She gives the point guard a big target at 6-foot-1, usually translating into easy buckets.

“[Scurry] really attacks her own miss,” Verdugo said. “That’s the key with Inglewood. They might miss the first or second shot, but they are usually there for the third.

“We need to stop them from getting extra opportunities.”

Verdugo looks to counteract Scurry in the post with emerging sophomore center Sabrina Norton. Her play on the boards figures to factor into which team will dominate the paint.

“I couldn’t be happier that Sabrina is playing well,” Verdugo said. “She has been playing solid at center.”

Samohi baseball field gets TLC<p>

Crews have been working on the baseball field at Samohi recently with money raised by the team’s boosters.

Of the nearly $30,000 raised, a healthy portion is being spent on bringing the condition of the often-used field up to date, Assistant Coach Tony Todd said. Work is expected to be completed by the start of the season, which begins in early March.

Samohi boys also take on Inglewood<p>

As part of a boys/girls doubleheader, Santa Monica’s boys will play Ocean League rival Inglewood tonight at 7:30 p.m.

The game will immediately follow the girls varsity game, also against Inglewood.

Samohi is 10-5 overall and 1-0 in league. Inglewood is 9-6 overall and 1-0 in league.

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