Jonah Mathews was a freshman on Santa Monica High’s 1A championship basketball team in 2013. He watched his older brother, Jordan, bask in the glow of leading the Vikings to the title. The next season, he remembers what Coach James Hecht told him.
“How do you want to be remembered?”
Now a senior, Mathews produced his own moment to remember, overcoming a slow start and finishing with 33 points to help the Vikings defeat Temecula Valley, 66-60, on Saturday morning at Honda Center in the Southern Section 1A championship game.
“Heck of a player,” Hecht said of the USC-bound senior.
Mathews started the game one for 10 shooting.
“I think my teammates helped me through the game,” he said. “In the first half, I couldn’t hit a shot.”
He put together a string of eight consecutive points in the first half but Santa Monica (29-2) fell behind at halftime, 35-24, and was down by 13 points at the outset of the third quarter. But the Vikings picked up their defensive pressure, started to rebound and regained their confidence to tie the game, 44-44, through three quarters and take the lead for good with 1:31 left on a three-pointer by Mathews.
It was a special victory for Hecht, his second section title. Before the season, two of his team’s top players left. Spencer Freedman transferred to Santa Ana Mater Dei and center Jayce Johnson left to enroll early in college.
“It was like they were punched in the stomach,” Hecht said of his team’s reaction. “They didn’t blink.”
DeWayne Holmes finished with 15 points for Temecula Valley (28-5) and Riley Schaefer and Scott Hollingsworth added 12 points apiece.
And Mathews, who received a pep talk from his brother via a phone call before the game, said, “I’m not living in his shadow anymore. It feels great to have two Mathews with rings.”
Official attendance for six games was 18,278, the fifth largest in Southern Section history.
Riverside JW North 61, Long Beach Poly 58: In denying Poly a 21st section title, the Highlanders (27-4) played terrific defense in the final seven seconds to win the 1AA title and give veteran Coach Mike Bartee his fourth title.
CJ Clark came off the bench to make four of six shots from three-point range and finish with 20 points. Christian Gray added 13 points and 10 rebounds. Zafir Williams led Poly with 21 points.
Santa Barbara 75, Lynwood 65: In winning the 2A title, the Dons (31-1) had five players score in double figures. Ben Clay led the way with 16 points and John Cage had 15 points and 15 rebounds.
Oak Park 68, La Verne Bonita 49: Sophomores Riley Battin and Wes Slajchert contributed 30 and 18 points, respectively, to help the Eagles (26-6) win the 3AA championship.
Oak Park has become one of the favorites to contend for a state Division III championship. The state playoffs begin next week.
Ayala 63, Edison 49: In the 2AA championship game, Ayala (31-3) received 19 points apiece from John Edgar and Austen Awosika.