Left Kalaria Obasi from the Santa Monica High School Girls Basketball team jumps into the air and passes te ball to a teammate past Tiffany Haney of the Beverly Hills HIgh School girls basketball team inside the North Gym on the campus of Santa Moncia High School on Wednesday January 19th 2011 as SAMO hosted Beverly Hills in an ocean league basketball game and won 52-31 (photo by Morgan Genser)

SAMOHI — It’s unwise to look past any opponent, but this may be the one occasion when you can forgive a team for doing so.

As Santa Monica High School’s girls’ basketball team prepares to travel to Inglewood for a matchup with Ocean League rival Morningside tonight, they can’t help but have their minds on Saturday’s game at Long Beach Poly, currently ranked No. 2 in the nation by USA Today.

While Samohi Head Coach Marty Verdugo said he’s focused on the non-league Poly game, he’s careful to keep it in perspective.

“We’re not taking anybody for granted anymore,” Verdugo said of Morningside. “We’ve learned a lesson by overlooking some teams, like Culver City.”

Culver City was able to upset Samohi at home last week, sending the Vikings to 1-1 in league at the time.

Another loss to highly-regarded Fullerton Troy on Monday gave the Vikings reason to reassess how they approach opponents.

“We’re going to treat it as a game-by-game situation,” Verdugo said. “With Morningside, we expect a battle. I think we’ll be ready for them.”

As for Poly, Verdugo is taking a more measured approach.

He considers them the most athletic team in the country, a determination made on good experience. The Vikings have played a monster of a schedule this year with games against nationally ranked Mater Dei and Illinois’ Bolingbrook. The teams were ranked No. 1 and No. 2 respectively when they Vikings faced them earlier this season. Samohi came up short both times, but the experience of facing elite teams should serve the Vikings well when they travel to Long Beach on Saturday.

“There’s league and then there’s Poly,” Verdugo joked. “We’ll go down and try to get some momentum going.

“We just have to enjoy the opportunity to play them. Hopefully we’ll able to play these types of teams deep into the playoffs so this experience will be key.”

Both Poly and Mater Dei are in the same regional division so future meetings are a real possibility. Poly is currently ranked No. 2 in the latest California Interscholastic Federation Southern Section Division 1A poll. Mater Dei is ranked No. 3. Samohi sits at No. 9.


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