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Samohi Takes Fourth In Basketball Tournament


Santa Monica High boys basketball has soared to remarkable heights in the long reign of James Hecht as coach.

The Vikings reached the championship game of the state tournament at the conclusion of last season, and typical of Hecht’s reign they’ve come back with another highly competitive team despite the graduation of key players.

Samohi hosts an annual early season tournament and a measure of the program’s success is the willingness of elite opponents to participate.

So it was a strong field that entered the Santa Monica Tournament last week. And a tribute to Hecht’s ability to rebuild from graduation losses that the Vikings took fourth place.

Santa Monica lost to a powerhouse Loyola team, then lost the third place game to Fairfax, 68-60. The Vikings defeated Palisades and Harvard-Westlake.

It’s important to realize one of Hecht’s new prominent players is a sophomore, guard Jonah Matthews.

Yes, in this program the beat goes on.

These early season games prepare teams for their upcoming league schedule.

Samohi, the defending champion, is one of the favorites in the Ocean League.

One opponent will be Culver City, which appears far better than last season, which was Adam Eskridge’s first as coach.

Lacking much height and trying to install a fast-moving, quick shooting philosophy, Eskridge’s team wasn’t among the league’s contenders.

But Culver City began this season by reaching the championship game of the Mira Costa Pacific Shores Tournament. It then missed a shot at the final buzzer in a 59-58 overtime loss to host Mira Costa.

Culver City is off to a 3-1 start, led by two returning players, forward Armani Nicolis and guard Chris Edwards.

“Armani Nicolis is our most versatile player on both ends of the court,” said Eskridge. “Chris Edwards is our spark plug. He’s very talented offensively.

“I think we’re pretty good. I like the way we match up with teams in our league but we have to keep improving.”

Next season the Ocean League will have another strong basketball team with the arrival of Lawndale.

In a CIF-mandated league alignment Inglewood and Morningside will move to the Bay League and the Ocean League will get El Segundo and Lawndale.

El Segundo figures as a strong contender in football, having just completed a highly successful season. El Segundo reached its division championship game where it lost to Moorpark. Lawndale went deep into the Division 2A playoffs in basketball last season.


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