MATER DEI — Santa Monica Head Coach Marty Verdugo hopes familiarity breeds success tonight in the California Interscholastic Federation Southern Section Division 1A final against Summit.

The two teams faced off in November as part of the Ladycat Classic with Summit walking away with a slim, 40-39, win. But, Verdugo and company learned a few things about their opponent in tonight’s 8:30 p.m. championship game at Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana.

Verdugo picked up that the relatively undersized Summit team relies on pushing the ball up court with its athleticism. He noticed that they shy away from half-court sets in favor of an up-tempo style of play.

“They do a lot of the same things,” Verdugo said. “They are an athletic transition team and I expect them to stick to that.”

At the lead of pretty much every Summit offensive possession is senior point guard Adrianne Thomas. Verdugo said her quickness creates a number of matchup problems and will counter by “ganging up” on her with double and even triple teams.

The difficult job of stopping Thomas will fall on junior transfer Moriah Faulk, who didn’t play during the earlier meeting. Thomas gives up a couple of inches to the lanky Faulk, an advantage Verdugo is confident will make a difference.

Adding Faulk and Bianka Balthazar to the roster late in the season will present Summit with a few matchup options of its own.

“We’re a totally different team now,” Verdugo said. “We believe we’re the better team.”

Verdugo said the biggest difference is the Vikings’ newfound ability to crowd the lane, denying playoff opponents the chance for easy put backs on missed shots.

Samohi’s primary inside presence at that time was center Sabrina Norton. She has since left the school, her father, retired NFL star and college coach Ken Norton Jr., accepting a job to join former USC Head Coach Pete Carroll on the Seattle Seahawks coaching staff.

Filling in for Norton in the post has been Balthazar, a player quickly acclimating to Verdugo’s system, giving the Vikings a sincere presence in the paint, or as Verdugo calls it, “Viking country.”

He said that the team that dominates the post will mostly likely walk away with a CIF title that would be Santa Monica’s first in school history.

As always, Samohi’s offense will be powered by senior guard Thea Lemberger. She has consistently led the team on the offensive end of the floor and has increasingly become a factor on defense. It was her late-game heroics during the third round win against Rancho Cucamonga that have kept the Vikings’ championship aspirations alive.

“We’ve made it our goal to be the first team to get a banner,” Verdugo said. “We’re excited to be here, but second place isn’t our goal.”

Rooting section

The Samohi athletic department is organizing bus rides for tonight’s CIF-SS Division 1A championship game between the Vikings and Summit at Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana. All students and fans are invited to ride along.

Anybody interested should contact Athletic Director Norm Lacy on campus at (310) 395-3204 ext. 495 or by e-mail at nlacy@smmusd.org.

daniela@www.smdp.com

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