FRESNO — Santa Monica’s boys basketball team’s reward for a thrilling, 67-65, victory over Clovis East in the first round of the Division 1 California Interscholastic Federation State Championships on Tuesday will be a matchup with defending state champion Westchester.
The No. 7 seeded Vikings entered the game coming off a big loss in the CIF-SS Division 1A final last Saturday against Leuzinger, hoping that the disappointment of losing the title didn’t carry over to the state tourney.
Apparently, the Samohi Vikings have short memories.
The Vikings entered the fourth quarter down, 50-47, after No. 11 seed Clovis East hit a half-court 3-pointer to end the third. Both teams exchanged baskets with the game remaining tight throughout until Samohi’s Corey Walker, with the Vikings down, 65-63, hit a 3-pointer to put the Vikings up by a point with five seconds to play.
Clovis East inbounded the ball, but fumbled it out of bounds to the Vikings. Walker was fouled immediately with just over a second to play. He hit the first of two free throws putting Samohi up, 67-65. The next attempt was missed intentionally, removing the possibility of Clovis East calling a time-out with time on the clock.
“We’re really excited to still be playing this late in the season,” Samohi Head Coach James Hecht said. “Even though we lost on Saturday, we still believe in ourselves.”
James Montgomery led Samohi with 19 points. Harry Horn added 17. Walker finished the night with 14.
With the stirring win, Samohi advances to the second round of the state playoffs and a matchup with a powerhouse Westchester team that is the No. 2 seed and City Section champs.
“Obviously they are a very good team,” Samohi’s Hecht said. “We feel like we’re going to go in and our goal is to win the game.”
With just eight teams left in the southern regional bracket, Hecht said that “we have nothing to lose.”