Members of the Santa Monica High School girls varsity basketball team pose with their coaches Thursday after securing the 2010 CIF Southern Sectional Division 1 championship, defeating Summit High school 69-63. It is the first girls basketball title for Samohi. (photo by Morgan Genser)

SANTA ANA — Santa Monica’s girls basketball team apparently takes the “see it, be it” philosophy to heart.

The Vikings defeated Summit, 69-63, Thursday in the final of the California Interscholastic Federation Southern Section Division 1A Playoffs at Mater Dei High School, fulfilling the stated goal of being the first girls team in school history to win a title.

“Our goals this season were to win [the Ocean League], win CIF and host a state [playoff] game,” Samohi Head Coach Marty Verdugo said.

With the win in the final, Verdugo and senior guard Thea Lemberger are already thinking big. Neither appear to be satisfied with the win, although both said that they were proud of their accomplishment.

“Our goals have changed,” Verdugo said. “We believe we can win this whole thing now.”

Pairings for the state playoffs will be released early next week. With the win in the finals, Samohi figures to be one of the top seeds and will surely host at least one home game.

The path to the state playoffs was paved with wins that Verdugo said were anything but easy. He scheduled a difficult non-league slate that saw his team taking on a number of powerhouse programs. A win against Troy and a good showing against Mater Dei proved that Samohi was a serious contender.

“Our strength of schedule prepared us for a big stage,” Verdugo said. “That arena was out of this is world.”

A number of rooter buses accompanied the Vikings to the site of the final, making the environment all the more charged.

“It felt loud and fast,” Lemberger said. “It was a fun game to be in.”

Lemberger scored 16 points, but was limited to just four in the second half. It was the play of Moriah Faulk that helped Samohi salt away a close halftime lead, securing a place in school history. She scored 19 points on the game with 12 coming in the second half.

Lemberger said that finding quality looks on offense was made difficult by Summit’s zone defense, forcing her to look to other teammates to make plays. Faulk took advantage of the opportunity.

Samohi held the lead for much of the game, but the task of fending off Summit was made difficult by foul trouble. Faulk, Lemberger and Bianka Balthazar were all assessed three fouls by halftime, forcing Verdugo to juggle his lineup. Verdugo praised Brianna Harris for filling in for Balthazar, giving the Vikings another tough post defender.

The roster flexibility Verdugo used to account for foul trouble is a relatively new development for Samohi.

The Vikings prospered with the additions of Balthazar and Faulk. The two transferred from a school in Arizona to bolster what was already considered an elite team. Both were granted eligibility during the Ocean League season, helping the Vikings cruise to a league title and a 10-0 record.

The Vikings also weathered the departure of starting center Sabrina Norton. She left school just before the playoffs after her father, former NFL star and college coach Ken Norton Jr., agreed to join former USC Head Coach Pete Carroll on the Seattle Seahawks staff. The team gave tribute to Norton by hanging her warm-up jacket over a chair on the bench throughout the playoffs.

Thursday’s win over Summit may be a springboard to bigger things, but the significance of the win wasn’t lost on Verdugo. In his fourth season, he has taken the team to the third round of the playoffs twice, the semi-finals once and now a CIF-SS title. With a team filled with a number of underclassmen, including Kristina Johnson, Faulk and Balthazar, he couldn’t help but look forward to next season.

“We’re going to be good, really good,” he said. “With this experience, there’s no telling what this team can do.”

daniela@www.smdp.com

Samohi’s boys play for title

Samohi’s boys basketball team will face Leuzinger in the final of the CIF-SS Division 1A Playoffs on Saturday. The game will take place at the Honda Center in Anaheim. The game begins at 2:30 p.m.

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