PHOENIX, Ariz. — For three quarters, Santa Monica High School’s girls’ basketball team kept pace with the No. 2 team in the country, Bolingbrook.

Problem is, the fourth quarter didn’t prove kind as Bolingbrook rambled off 10 straight points to start the period en route to a 59-48 win in the first round of the Nike Tournament of Champions in Phoenix, Ariz. on Saturday. The loss was the first of the season for Samohi, which is now 9-1.

“We battled hard,” Head Coach Marty Verdugo said. “We definitely had a chance to win it.”

Bolingbrook, ranked No. 2 in the nation in the latest USA Today poll, was led by Tennessee-bound point guard Ariel Massengale’s 15 points, 11 of which came during that fateful fourth quarter. UConn committee Morgan Tucker also scored 15.

Despite the loss, Verdugo was happy the way his team played against a national powerhouse. In fact, if not for a poor 4 for 16 night from the free throw line, the Samohi Vikings just may have surprised Bolingbrook.

In the loss, UCLA-bound guard Moriah Faulk again led the Vikings in scoring, this time tallying 19. Senior point guard Kristina “KJ” Johnson added 13 points and matched the heralded Massengale drive for drive all night, Verdugo said.

“It proved that KJ can play with anybody,” Verdugo said. “She really opened some people’s eyes.”

Regardless of the loss, the Vikings are guaranteed to play three more games this week during the prestigious Nike tourney. With the loss, the Vikings slide to the consolation side of the 16-team bracket.

Next for the Vikings is a second round matchup with Highlands Ranch of Colorado today at 12:30 p.m. at Hamilton High School. Bolingbrook advances to play Riverdale Baptist from Maryland.

In preparation for the game, Verdugo had to scramble to find a place on Sunday to practice with his team. With no outdoor courts available at the Arizona Grand Resort, Verdugo found a helicopter pad large enough to accommodate a walk through.

Verdugo and his staff set up boxes at each end to represent baskets and conducted a somewhat unorthodox practice.

“Sometimes you have to get a little creative,” Verdugo said.

daniela@www.smdp.com

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