Knowing what a skilled and explosive player Santa Monica High Jonah Mathews is, the host Burroughs boys’ basketball team tried its best to contain him during Friday’s CIF Southern Section Division I-A semifinal game.
Despite double and triple-teaming the USC-bound senior shooting guard at times, he still erupted for a game-high 33 points with 21 coming in the opening half, while leading the Vikings to a 68-45 triumph before a near-packed house.
This was the first time since 1990 that the Indians advanced to the semifinals and had Burroughs (22-8) prevailed, it would have been the first time since 1955 it would have qualified for the title game.
The No. 1 seeded Vikings, who will play Temecula Valley, which knocked off Camarillo, 65-62, in the other semifinal, were worthy of the top rank as they led 20-15 after the first quarter and held a 37-20 advantage at the break.
But in the third quarter, the Indians (29 percent on 15 of 55 shots from the field) started to find their groove and came within 43-36 and 3:26 left when junior power forward Tristen Hull (12 points) scored.
But the Vikings (25 of 56 for 44.6 percent) went on an 11-0 spurt and entered the fourth quarter ahead 54-36.
“Number 4 [Mathews] is as good as advertised,” Burroughs coach Adam Hochberg said. “But I think that it was our ineffectiveness on offense and defense in the first half. We had them on the ropes [in the third quarter], but they were the better team tonight. Hats off to them.”
In that time frame, Mathews scored five points including a three-pointer, while sophomore guard Isaiah Johnson scored four of his six points and senior forward Mikhail Brown (10 points) tallied two points.
Santa Monica (28-2), which now owns a 23-game winning streak, hit its first five attempts from the field in the opening quarter with Mathews scoring 13 points and Brown four points as the Vikings canned eight of 11.
“I thought our bench did a great job,” Santa Monica coach James Hecht said. “Our depth showed tonight.”
Hecht admitted that Mathews, who has scored 108 points in four playoff games, is a special talent, but that the collective effort is also important.
“Jonah is a great player, but I’d like to think that Santa Monica is more than just him,” Hecht said.
Burroughs senior point guard Ross Lee III (team-best 16 points) hammered in two of his three from three-point distance in the initial period and had 10 points while senior shooting guard Steven Hubbell (six points with five assists and five rebounds) dropped in a trey and Hull (three caroms) made a pair of free throws.
“We just tried to fight,” said Lee III, who had six assists, four steals, two rebounds and one block. “We just sort of lost our focus. This just wasn’t our night.”
Neither team shot well in the second quarter as Burroughs made two of 10 and Santa Monica, which outrebounded the Indians, 55-25, hit four of 13 and outscored the hosts 17-5.
Mathews sprayed in two of his six from three-point range and two free throws in the frame and his three-pointer with 2:58 left gave the Vikings a 29-18 lead.
Meanwhile junior forward Daniel Schreier scored three of his 11 points for the Vikings.
Hull dropped in three points in the second quarter and his hoop with 3:58 left on the clock trimmed Santa Monica’s lead to 24-18, but the Vikings then went a on 13-2 run to close out the frame and pulled in front 54-36 heading into the final quarter.
The Vikings outscored the Indians 14-9 in the fourth quarter with Mathews collecting seven points and his trey with 7:40 showing pushed Santa Monica ahead 57-36.
Four players scored for the Indians in the final quarter including senior guard Nick Howard, who drilled a three-pointer.
Senior guard Elijah Cain and junior guard Austin Marx each scored two points as did senior small forward Angelo Solis (four points).
“Their defense was really tough,” Solis said. “Every time I had the ball and I wanted to get my shot off, they were right there.”
Santa Monica drilled 10 of 19 free throws while Burroughs converted six of 15 from the charity line.