Jackson leads SAMO to Division 1A crown

ANAHEIM, Calif. – The entire building waited on Santa Monica guard Jordan Mathews to erupt.

The Cal-bound senior exploded for 29 points in the semifinals to help the Vikings get to Saturday’s Division 1A final in Anaheim on Saturday.

The big game for Mathews never came on Saturday but it did absolutely nothing to hurt the Vikings chances in their 66-56 win over El Toro to win their first CIF championship since 1987. 

Fortunately for head coach James Hecht, Trevis Jackson was on his side.

The senior guard scored 10 points in the second quarter to help the Vikings open up a 15-point halftime lead, 28-13.

“I (usually) run the offense through (Mathews),” said Jackson, who finished with 17 points to lead all scorers. “He puts the ball in the basket. When I saw him go out, it was like ‘well, someone has to step up.’ As co-captain with Jordan, I just felt the pressure and I responded to the pressure (and) it was in a positive way.”

Both teams came out cold, combining for 6-of-28 field goals in the first quarter and finished the first eight minutes with eight points apiece.

Jackson was a steady hand in the second quarter. He was able to get to the line where he knocked down all four of his foul shots in the quarter. He made two shots in the quarter capped off by a three pointer to beat the first half buzzer. 

As good as Jackson was, the Vikings defense was better.

Knowing good and well they were up against one of the best shooting teams in the state, they closed out hard on El Toro’s shooters making it hard for them to get off three-point attempts.

The shots the Chargers were able to get up from beyond the arc, they missed. El Toro was 0-for-12 from three point land in the first half and were just 13 percent from the field, making 3-of-22 field goals. Santa Monica outscored them 20-5 in the quarter.

The Chargers missed their first 16 three-point attempts and went three quarters without connecting on a shot from beyond the arc. 

“We definitely are a three point shooting team but playing in an arena, it did affect us,” El Toro head coach Todd Dixon said. “We have guys that knocked down shots all year and being in the arena we didn’t quite shoot as well.”

Said El Toro guard George Buaku who finished with a team-high 12 points: “I never seen a team that missed that many shots.”

Mathews, the son of UCLA assistant coach Phil Mathews, found himself in foul trouble in the first half and struggled mightily from the field throughout the game.

However, one of his successes was the biggest shot of the game for the Vikings.

The Chargers, down by as much as 17 in the second half, were closing quickly. They’d cut the deficit to three points with 3:50 left in the game.

The Vikings were struggling with the full court pressure the Chargers were applying but when the going got tough, Mathews, who was trapped on the right wing, split the defense and skied through the lane for a layup to put the Vikings up 51-46.

That helped stopped the momentary bleeding and the Vikings were able to take control the rest of the way.

“I knew we needed a bucket right then,” Mathews said. “Coach Hecht and my father both told me before the man gets there you can split it and I was lucky enough to split it and get to the basket.

“I just wanted to put an end to their run. I didn’t want any late game theatrics. We had too much of that this year.” 

Mathews finished with 13 points on 4-of-18 shooting.

“All year we get unfairly labeled a little bit as a one-man show and I think tonight we proved that we’re truly a team,” Hecht said.