SANTA MONICA Next year, they’ll be teammates at Cal.
But Tuesday night, Kameron Rooks of Mission Hills and Jordan Mathews of Santa Monica were in different uniforms, with Mathews wearing the home whites as the Vikings prevailed 51-34 in the Southern California Regional boys basketball semifinals.
Santa Monica (28-6) advances to Saturday’s Division I final. Mission Hills (29-5) saw a 12-game winning streak come to an end.
“Soft hands, great passer, finishes at the basket,” Mathews, who had 16 points and five rebounds, said of Rooks. “It’s going to be fun to play with him.”
Rooks finished with a game-high 19 points, grabbed 17 rebounds and blocked three shots.
But he was the only one scoring for the Grizzlies as they were 5-for-23 shooting in the first half and finished 13-for-47.
“We only made shots in one quarter, the third,” said Mission Hills coach Curtis Hofmeister. “But when we hit shots, we couldn’t get a stop on the defensive end.
“Santa Monica is quick, and they played quicker than they are because they play so hard.”
Down by 10 at the half, Mission Hills trailed 41-33 with 5:01 to play.
Santa Monica, which plays in a tiny gym reminiscent of the movie “Hoosiers,” then went on a 10-0 run to seal the win.
“We couldn’t throw a ball in the ocean tonight,” said Grizzlies guard Kibret Woldemichel, who had a pair of 3-pointers in the third quarter.
“Once we got down, it was hard to come back. But we had an incredible season. We took the program to new heights. And we’re so proud of that.”
Rooks, who said he had so much fun playing with his Grizzlies teammates this season, said he’s really looking forward to playing with Mathews.
“He’s a really good player,” Rooks said. “Cal is going to have a great freshman class. I’m going to work my butt off to make sure I’m part of that success, just like I was here.”
San Diego teams have had success at other levels, but have struggled in the Division I state playoffs. No San Diego Division I team has advanced to the state championship game.
Only one San Diego Division I team (Helix in 2007) got as far as Mission Hills — to the SoCal semifinal. Three times, both San Diego teams have gone two-and-out.
Part of the problem is Division I is dominated by powerhouse private schools like Santa Ana Mater Dei, L.A. Loyola and Orange Lutheran.
Add the big public schools like Clovis West, M.L. King, Etiwanda, Dorsey, Westchester and Crenshaw, and Division I is a tough nut to crack.
“With the new Open Division (which includes Mater Dei, Long Beach Poly and Westchester) this season, Division I is pretty darn even,” Hofmeister said. “The super powers are playing up a division, so Division I this year was so much more competitive.
“In years past, as good as our team is this season, we would have been in with the Open Division teams, and it would have been tough.”