Samohi softball takes it all

IRVINE — Last year, the Santa Monica softball team ended their playoff run in disappointment. But they were determined to force a different outcome in 2014.

“We were here last year [and] got our butts kicked,” head coach Debbie Skaggs said. “The girls knew that we had to come out here and not just be happy to be here, but get here and finish business.”

The Vikings easily defeated the Ventura Cougars, 3-1, in the Division IV CIF-SS championship on Saturday, May 31, giving Samohi its second title in five years.

Junior pitcher Whitney Jones struck out three Ventura batters, while senior first baseman Francesca Golick had two RBIs. Senior infielder Marina Coffin had one RBI for the Cougars.

Samohi’s last division championship was in 2010 when they defeated the North Torrance Saxons, 11-3.

The Viking offense started strong in the bottom of the first inning with senior Sara Garcia smacking a triple into right field, allowing freshman second baseman Jasmine Gomez to score Samohi’s first run.

With Garcia on third, Golick connected on a Ventura pitch, driving in Garcia for an early 2-0 lead.

Jones said her pitching loosened up after her team was able to build an early advantage.

“It feels much better when you have a little cushion,” Jones said.

The Cougars got on the board in the top of the third inning off an RBI by Coffin. However, Golick responded at the bottom of the inning with her second RBI of the game with the bases loaded. Samohi never looked back.

The Vikings were able to use strong defense to take away any chance of a Ventura comeback. With two outs in the top of the fourth inning, junior infielder Amanda Gilchrist launched a double into deep right center field. But Samohi took a ground ball by Ventura’s next batter and was able to retire the side.

“There are plays that, if they don’t make, it could get us into a lot of trouble, into a mess,” Jones said about her team’s defense. “It definitely takes down the other team and pumps up our mentality, which is just great. I can’t ask for a better defense. They really helped me this year.”

Skaggs said the team’s defense is key to their success because of the type of pitcher Jones is.

“We’re known to be a pretty solid defensive club, and that’s what we lean on because our pitcher doesn’t strike out a lot of batters,” Skaggs said.

Despite a slow start, Jones was able to find her pitching groove as the game went on. She said her positioning of the ball is what worked well for her on Saturday.

“I kept the ball low and I kept moving the pitch around, which I think was really effective,” Jones said. “[I] stayed in on some of their hands and took the ball outside when I needed to.”

This year’s championship came with a lot of growth among the team, Jones said.

“We had a really tough season this year before we got to CIF, and then once CIF came, we really gelled together as a team, just like we did last year,” Jones said. “But this year, we had a lot more talent and we were just a stronger team together and we just really had teamwork, which is what got us here.”



Samohi’s playoff run ends

SAMOHI — Santa Monica’s boys’ basketball team scored only 11 points in the third quarter and fell to the Rancho Cucamonga Cougars, 74-56, in the second round of the CIF-Southern Section Division 1AA playoffs on Tuesday night.

Sophomore guard Jonah Mathews led the Samohi Vikings with 20 points while senior guard Ray Mancini added 17.

For the Cougars, senior forward Daylan Lawrence led all scorers with 25 points.

The loss marks the end of a season in which the Vikings finished with an overall record of 17-10, going 8-2 in Ocean League play.

Samohi head coach James Hecht recalled only positives when he looked back on the year.

“I thought we had a good year,” Hecht said. “I think we learned a lot. I think we grew a lot as a team considering the number of players that we had new to varsity basketball.”

The Vikings got off to a slow start and were forced to take a time-out after Rancho Cucamonga held an early 8-1 lead by capitalizing on Samohi’s turnovers. Late in the first quarter, Mathews scored off an assist by Mancini, which brought the Cougar lead down to four.

Mathews, who only had two first-quarter points, got going in the second frame, scoring eight of his 10 first-half points in the quarter. The Vikings were able to cut their deficit to two after sophomore forward Mikhail Brown made a layup, bringing to the score to 25-23 in favor of the Cougars.

Rancho Cucamonoga led at the half, 40-32.

Then the third quarter happened. The Cougars started off by opening up a 13-point lead after senior guard Victor Joseph converted a layup. Samohi answered with two back-to-back 3-pointers from senior guard Chris Johnson and Mathews, but Rancho Cucamonga ripped a 16-4 run down Santa Monica’s throat to end the frame with a 62-43 lead.

“A lot of our turnovers unfortunately led to baskets by them, and I think we got a little deflated,” Hecht said about his team’s third-quarter struggles. “I called time-outs, tried to calm us down a little bit. But I just think some of those turnovers that led to baskets for them were momentum killers.”

The Cougars kept their foot on the gas in the final stanza and wouldn’t let Samohi get close. On one Vikings possession, senior guard Nick Culver started a Rancho Cucamonga fast break with a blocked shot which led to a one-handed throw down by Lawrence at the other end.

Mancini said Samohi’s high turnover rate in Tuesday’s game had more to do with their offense than the Cougars’ defense.

“We were rushing a little bit too much,” Mancini said. “We were trying to be one-on-five instead of sharing the ball. We were just trying to go too fast and trying to shut the crowd up.”

On Friday, Samohi torched the Montebello Oilers by 31 points in the first found of the playoffs. Mancini said the difference between the two games was the team shared the ball more.

“The first game, we had three, four players in double digits,” Mancini said. “We just played freely. We cared for each other and just played for each other.”

Hecht said when the dust of the loss settles, his team can take a step back and look fondly at their success throughout the year.

“I think we could be proud of what we accomplished,” Hecht said. “Third year in a row winning league, second round of the playoffs. We fought the fight.”


Basketball: Samohi finishes fourth in tourney

SAMOHI — The Santa Monica Vikings took fourth place in the Santa Monica Tournament with a 68-60 loss to the Fairfax Lions on Saturday night at home.

Samohi sophomore guard Jonah Mathews led the way for the Vikings with a game-high 22 points while senior guard Victor Costa chipped in with 15 off the bench.

Sophomore guard Antoine Monroe had 20 points to lead the Lions and senior guard Sage Woodruff added 17 points.

Mathews dominated the first quarter, starting with a four-point play after getting fouled and draining a shot from downtown. Fairfax shot back with a 5-0 run to take the lead, but the frame was close throughout, ending in a 15-14 Lions lead.

Mathews had 12 points in the opening quarter, but just 10 points the rest of the game.

“They just face-guarded him and tried to frustrate him,” Samohi head coach James Hecht said. “They didn’t make it easy for him to get open looks or to catch the ball. It was a good game plan.”

Fairfax came out in the second quarter with four straight points in less than a minute, forcing a Vikings timeout. The Lions extended their lead to 27-18 with a 12-4 run.

But Samohi increased their defensive intensity, forcing turnovers and scoring as a result. Senior guard Chris Johnson’s free throw capped a 9-0 Vikings run to tie the game at 27.

Fairfax answered Samohi’s spurt with two 3-pointers by Monroe and a bucket by sophomore forward/center Babacar Thiombane to end the half with a 35-31 advantage.

The game remained contentious in the third. Mathews pulled the Vikings to within two with a 3-pointer, but was immediately answered by Woodruff’s shot from beyond the arc. On one Lions possession, Samohi was able to intercept a pass and ignite a fast break, but then turned the ball over, leading to a basket for Fairfax and a 43-36 deficit.

“We played really hard together, but tonight, there were three or four possessions where we didn’t find our man or we didn’t rotate and those were buckets that (the Lions) got,” Mathews said.

Samohi made some noise late in the quarter when senior guard Ray Mancini stole the ball and knocked down an elbow jumper to cut the Lion lead to just one. But Fairfax answered again, putting together a 6-0 run and ending the frame leading 52-45.

The Vikings cut the deficit to three in the fourth after a pair of Costa free throws, but Fairfax ran off an 8-2 run punctuated by a vicious two-hand dunk by senior forward/center Oleesameeka Nwachee, sealing the victory.

The Vikings stumbled in the face of pressure defense from the Lions all night, often having trouble getting the ball across mid court.

“They were just trying to disrupt our flow and it took us a while to adjust to that,” Hecht said. “I thought as the game went on, our execution got better.”

Mathews feels that these last two losses can teach the team to be better in the future. Samohi is now 2-2 on the season.

“We need to become more mentally tough,” Mathews said. “Two losses can get you mentally. We just need to come together as a unit and play together to win the next two games.”