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Santa Monica loses battle for Division I state title to Pleasant Grove

Eagles take control and defeat the Vikings, 73-57, in the CIF state basketball championships Friday at Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento.

March 22, 2013|Eric Sondheimer
  • Pleasant Grove's Malik Thames, drives down the lane against Santa Monica defenders for a layup in the fourth quarter Friday night in Sacramento.
Pleasant Grove's Malik Thames, drives down the lane against Santa… (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated…)

SACRAMENTO — For the first five games of the CIF state basketball championships played Friday at Sleep Train Arena, shooters were off target. Again and again.

Four of the 10 teams didn't make it out of the 20s in shooting percentage. And Southern California teams won every game.

By the final game of the night, the Division I championship, hometown favorite Elk Grove Pleasant Grove finally gave Northern California fans something to cheer about.

With senior guards Matthew Hayes and Malik Thames scoring from outside and an ailing Jordan Mathews failing to reach any kind of comfort zone, Pleasant Grove was able to dominate Santa Monica en route to a 73-57 victory to gain the school's first state championship.

Mathews, averaging 25 points during the playoffs, suffered a back bruise when he hit the floor in the first half. That left him limping. Then, at the outset of the third quarter, his knee was hit in another collision. That left him hurting even more. Then he fouled out with 7:15 left. He finished with nine points on three-of-10 shooting.

Afterward, Coach James Hecht put his arm around a tearful Mathews, trying to console and thank him for helping produce the best postseason in Santa Monica history.

"It wasn't our night," Hecht said. "They outplayed us in many aspects of the game. We couldn't get it going."

Hayes scored 19 points and Thames had 16. Pleasant Grove (28-6) shot a scorching 48% (25 of 52) and outrebounded the Vikings, 43-32.

Santa Monica (29-7) fell behind by 20 points early in the fourth quarter but closed to within 11 points behind center Chris Smith, who finished with 20 points and eight rebounds. Then the Eagles regained command.

Pleasant Grove was hitting its open shots in the first half and also mixing it up with effective drives and offensive rebound baskets to open a 36-27 halftime lead.

The Eagles, having lost three times to Northern California power Sheldon, showed some toughness in outrebounding Santa Monica, 21-13, in the first half.

Santa Monica, which won the Southern Section 1A championship, finished two of 12 from three-point range.

"With our body of work, we have a lot to be proud of," Hecht said.

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