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REDONDO — Coming into the season, it would have been fair to ask whether or not the girls’ basketball team at Santa Monica High School was rebuilding or reloading.

It’s clear now, they simply reloaded a year removed from the first California Interscholastic Federation Southern Section title in the sport in school history.

The latest evidence is a 62-54 victory over Bishop Montgomery on Saturday to clinch the Redondo Union Battle at the Beach tournament, the second tourney win for the team this season. The Vikings took home the Inglewood Circle of Champions Tournament title last weekend by defeating Gardena Serra.

“For me personally, the players knew that I wanted this tournament,” Head Coach Marty Verdugo said. “Not many teams have the opportunity to start this way.”

Despite Samohi’s fast start this year, the win over Bishop Montgomery didn’t come easily.

“It was like a boxing match,” Verdugo said. “We were tentative at first. The game was stuck at 3-3 for the first five minutes.”

He said that both teams had effective defensive game plans, but he knew that if his Samohi Vikings could take away their post play, the game could be had.

“It turned into a game of momentum,” Verdugo said. “We finally showed some life just before half-time.”

Sophomore Briana Harris stoked Samohi’s fire as the guard scored 7 straight points late in the second quarter to give the Vikings a 34-28 lead at the half.

“[Harris] is not playing like a sophomore,” Verdugo said.

After some nick and tuck, the second half belonged to the Vikings, who improved to 9-0 on the young season. Senior Moriah Faulk, who scored 19 to lead all scorers in the title game, was named tourney MVP. Harris and senior point guard Kristina “KJ” Johnson were named to the all-tournament team.

As Samohi prepares for the elite Nike Tournament of Champions, which begins next Saturday in Arizona, Verdugo said that his team’s early season success should serve them well when they face nationally-ranked Bolingbrook of Illinois in the first round.

“[These wins] make us believe we can reach a high level this year,” Verdugo said. “This is why I’ve scheduled such difficult teams early this year. We came away knowing that we could win against anybody.”

daniela@www.smdp.com

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