SAMOHI — It’s on to the next one for the Santa Monica girls basketball team.
The No. 3 seeded Samohi Vikings routed Narbonne of Harbor City, 56-39, in the first round of the Division 1 California Interscholastic Federation State Championships on Tuesday setting up a rematch with Canyon Springs in the second round at Samohi on Thursday at 7 p.m.
The game was close in the opening minutes, but Samohi, coming off the first CIF-SS title in school history, opened up in the second quarter. Samohi led, 27-11, at halftime and wasted little time once play resumed adding to that lead before Head Coach Marty Verdugo emptied his bench with two minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. The team was leading 56-30 at that point.
“We really tried to come out strong and never relax,” Verdugo said. “We want the other team to know that they’re in for a long night.”
The game was a showcase for the current Samohi roster that is only now coming together. The team came into the season led by a quartet of returners that included Thea Lemberger, Lilly Feder, Kristina Johnson and Sabrina Norton.
Starting center Norton has since left the school and a pair of talented transfers from Arizona — Moriah Faulk and Bianka Balthazar — have given the team a more physical presence in the post. Faulk was activated midseason and Balthazar was cleared late in the season after initially being denied eligibility.
The current lineup overwhelmed a team that Narbonne Head Coach Victoria Sanders admitted was young and perhaps unprepared for such a big stage.
“[Santa Monica] is a pretty nice team,” Sanders said. “If I had a couple of transfers from Arizona and had Thea [Lemberger], my team would be pretty good, too.”
Faulk led the Vikings with 17 points, with a number of baskets being of the highlight reel variety. Her strong play alongside team leader Lemberger has helped elevate the Vikings to elite status as the team heads into a rematch with No. 6 seed Canyon Springs in the second round of the state tourney.
“It hasn’t wasn’t hard [getting used to the team],” Faulk said. “Everybody on the team is pretty cool. We really have a lot of chemistry.”
The two teams are very familiar with each other. Canyon Springs eliminated Samohi from the semi-finals of the CIF-SS Division 1A playoffs last season. A second meeting came early this season, with Samohi getting the best of Canyon Springs, 65-60.