Normans top Samo in Swim Gym for second consecutive year

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"It was awesome," Yektafar said.
Senior guard Siavash Yektafar, immortalized on the “Sia Board.”

Jackson Prince, sports editor

The Normans, upon taking the court last night, received a chorus of cheers from the packed Beverly student section, followed by howls from the Samo section. Almost immediately, the fans had “made their presence known,” according to forward Jalen Sands.

“We fed off of the crowd energy. It helped us start the game off running,” Sands said.

The Normans proceeded to keep Samo at bay for the entire game, never losing the lead.

Coach Jarvis Turner has been a witness to the “intensity” of the rivalry with Samo since his career at Beverly began.

“[Samo] has been our rival since I’ve been here. They’ve been league champs and are always competitive. But we were supposed to win this one,” Turner said after the game had ended.

But in the fourth quarter, with the game still close enough for the fans to follow each possession, Sands went down with what seemed to be a severe injury. Disregarding the pain, Sands raised himself up after spending 30 seconds on the floor, and was back in the game within two minutes of the injury.

“It was a knee contusion, but I had to get back [into the game]. It’s Samo,” he said.

With 2:14 left in the contest, one of the more unique moments of the Norman season took place. With the score 45-40, 6-foot-7 center Ronan Massana pulled up for a three-pointer, making the shot and increasing the margin to eight points.

“I was trying to get it to a shooter, but everyone was denied. [Samo] left me open at the three-point line, and I took the opportunity. I actually practice from long-range all the time,” he said without a hint of humor.

Massana finished with 15 points.

With the game winding down to its final 60 seconds, Samo began to stall the game with fouls, a tactic used by teams who find themselves trailing in the final minutes of a game. The Normans foiled the strategy by hitting most of their free throws.

Chatter of a possible “court-storming” began in the stands, as fans wanted to reenact last season’s celebration. But the idea was shot down, much to the relief of guard Brandon Neman, who hit the game-winning three-point shot in the 2013 edition of this rivalry.

“Though I love to see the crowd that energized, I’m glad they didn’t rush the court. As Coach said, we expected to be victorious,” Neman said.

And victorious they were, as the Normans defeated Samo, 55-47, in a game “very important” to the seniors, according to defensive specialist Eli Sachs.

“Going out on top against Samo is definitely something all seven seniors had had on this season’s checklist. We have to get through them once more, though,” he said.

However, the story of the night may have been that of junior guard Trevor Bergher. Out of Beverly Vista, Bergher has been a steady scorer for the Normans, and has led the team in points scored in the past four games. Last night was no different.

“When the threes began to fall, I gained more and more confidence to continue shooting the ball,” he said. “I just wanted to stay hot, so when I had the space, I looked to shoot.”

After Bergher hit a left-corner-three in the third quarter, “MVP” chants for the junior rang from the Norman stands.

“To be honest, I didn’t hear it. I was in a zone,” Bergher said.

Bergher ended the night as Beverly’s top-scorer, totaling 16 points.

After Bergher’s post-game interviews with Westside sports reporters Eric Sondheimer and Ed Gonzalez, the latter whom had predicted that the Normans “would easily take league,” Bergher reflected on the next steps that the Normans need to take in order to be successful.

“We have to finish off league first. A win against SaMo at their home court is crucial,” Bergher said.

Bergher isn’t worried about the possibility of newly-acquired attention from opposing defenses.

“If defenses start to key in on me, we’ve got plenty of shooters on the team that will prove to be weapons,” he said.

Turner expressed his pride in Bergher’s performance and overall work ethic.

“[Bergher] is the hardest worker on the team. He’s well-deserving of this performance and he’ll continue to knock down shots for us,” he said.

The intensity of the game carried over to social media, as Twitter was set ablaze by  hashtags of “BevBall” and “BergherBall” (who doesn’t have a Twitter account himself), as well as back-and-forth fiery exchanges between the students of each school. However, much of the talk within the Norman fan base pertained to the school spirit present in the Swim Gym and the pride felt by many following the victory, according to various students who had attended the contest.

Even Turner, when trying to play down the game, had to acknowledge the added fervor of this game. It was “just another victory… with a little added heat.”

The Normans take on Inglewood this Friday at 7 p.m. in the Swim Gym, and will travel to Samo’s home court on Friday, Feb. 7.

 

UPDATE: The Normans lost to Inglewood in double-overtime  on Friday, Jan. 24. Yektafar had 24 points, Massana had 17.

 

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