CHINO HILLS — The crowd was roaring for Santa Monica’s boys basketball team as the clock struck zero on Tuesday, but they weren’t the home team.
Samohi won the California Interscholastic Federation Southern Section Division 1A playoff game, 40-39, against top-seeded Chino Hills in front of nearly 100 cheering fans who made the trek in a pair of buses. Head Coach James Hecht credited Samohi’s rooting section for comforting his team in what would have otherwise been a hostile environment.
“Our fans have been outstanding all year,” Hecht said. “They turned it into a home-court advantage for us.”
The game’s pace was slow from the jump with both teams struggling to manufacture points. The pace of the game was so slow that no Viking scored in double figures. Center Harry Horn led the team with nine points. Soloman Singer chipped in eight points of his own.
Hecht wasn’t alone in his praise for the traveling crowd.
“It felt like a home game for us,” Horn said. “They all came with their shirts and their signs.
“It really gave us energy.”
That extra edge was needed as the game was contested down to the final whistle.
With 10 seconds remaining, Samohi held a two point lead as Corey Walker was fouled. He missed the first freethow, but hit the second to give Samohi a 40-37 lead. Without a time-out, Chino Hills was able to hustle down court and make a running hook in the lane with two seconds to go. Samohi inbounded the ball and ran out the rest of the clock sending the team to the quarterfinals for the second year in a row. Samohi lost in the semifinals last season.
“It was one of our lowest scoring performances of the year,” said Hecht, who is seeking his first CIF title in his 16 years as coach. “But, we’ll take it as they come.”
The eighth-seeded Vikings advance to take on Colony on Friday at Santa Monica College.
Hecht likened Colony to his own team, saying he expects both teams to be evenly matched. Both teams enjoy stretching the floor and playing up-tempo.
Samohi will have to stay in front on both sides of the ball and stay aggressive if they are to advance, Hecht added.
Horn, who defends the post for Samohi, said that ball movement will win the day.
“It’s pretty hard to stop us when we’re doing that,” Horn said. “Other teams can’t guard all five of us at once.”