Left Moriah Faulk of the Santa Monica Girls Varsity Basketball team dribbles the basketball on her way to driving towards the basket as she uses her hand and pushes back Kaija Powell of Mater Dei Girls Varsity Basketball team at Materi Dei on Saturday Jan. 9th as Materi Dei hosed Santa Monica in a non league basketball game at won 70-54. In the background is Harris' teammate Bianka Balthazar (photo by Morgan Genser)

SANTA ANA — There’s one thing for certain about the girls from Santa Monica: they are battle tested.

The latest action came Saturday at national powerhouse Mater Dei. Samohi’s girls’ basketball team ultimately lost, 70-54, but the lessons learned from playing such an imposing squad should bode well as the Vikings prepare to open league play this week.

The matchup with Mater Dei was the second time this season the Vikings have taken on a team ranked in the top 5 of the USA Today poll, with Samohi having faced and lost to Illinois’ Bolingbrook last month as part of the Nike Tournament of Champions.

While the things his team have learned should serve the Vikings well as they head into league play, Head Coach Marty Verdugo said losing never feels good, regardless of how highly-regarded a team is.

“If we were just a little more consistent and didn’t get behind early, we could have beat them,” Verdugo said. “We missed some shots, maybe we were a little nervous.”

Mater Dei was able to parlay Samohi’s slow start in to a 20-6 lead after the first quarter, but these Vikings weren’t dead in the water as the scoreboard might suggest.

The Vikings were able to outscore Mater Dei 23-14 in the second period giving Samohi some life and just a 5 point deficit heading into the break.

With the game very much in doubt, the Vikings were able to cut Mater Dei’s half-time lead to just a point midway through the third quarter, but that’s when Mater Dei showed its worth led by point guard Jordan Adams. Adams used her height to her advantage as she gave the Vikings fits in the paint all night.

“We just couldn’t stop her penetration,” Verdugo said. “She was able to get some of our girls in foul trouble. She’s just so hard to defend.”

Led by Adams, Mater Dei was able to build a 20-point fourth quarter lead that was too much for the Vikings to overcome.

The Vikings were led by sophomore Briana Harris who scored 16 points in the losing effort. Moriah Faulk added 11 for Samohi. In addition to solid play on the offensive side of the ball, Verdugo credited Faulk’s defense for shutting down UConn-bound Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis to the tune of 14 points, well below her season average.

While Samohi hasn’t been successful in its games against national powers, the experience is what Verdugo hopes will give the Vikings an edge come the playoffs, where they very well could face Mater Dei again. After winning last year’s California Interscholastic Federation Southern Section Division 1A title — the first in the sport in school history — the Vikings were bumped up to Division 1AA, where they will have to contend with the likes of Mater Dei, Long Beach Poly and Brea Olinda.

For now, the Vikings will have to settle for opening league play on Wednesday at Inglewood. But, Verdugo already has his mind set on what’s to come later this season when the postseason starts.

“We’ll be six weeks better,” Verdugo said. “And, we’ll have an answer for Jordan Adams.”


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