NORTHRIDGE — Saugus guard Danny Diaz laid near midcourt with 34 seconds left in Saugus’ game Friday afternoon at Heritage Christian High School, crying in agony.
Diaz fouled out seconds before in a collision with Heritage Christian guard Sam Ducharme and struggled to put weight on her right knee. Trailing by two at that point, after letting a 13-point halftime lead slip away, Saugus felt the wind leave its sails and couldn’t recover in a 65-63 loss in the championship of the Heritage Christian Tournament.
Saugus (6-5) won four games in five days before losing to Heritage Christian (9-1). During the tournament, the Centurions outscored opponents 305-126 in a run that could give Saugus momentum heading into Foothill League play in January. After the game, players and coaches had mixed emotions as they struggled to process the end of the game.
“They made some adjustments at the end of the game that really helped them,” said Saugus coach Jason Conn. “We were killing them on their press. They got out of it, and we missed some shot that we normally make.”
“But coming out of this 6-5 is solid.”
Both teams came out ready to play a fast game. Maryrose Elias had two early steals for Saugus that led to two layups. In the first half Saugus won the turnover battle, eight to six. Heritage Christian used a full-court press for much of the first half to try to create turnovers, but Elias used the extra space at the far baseline to drive repeatedly to the basket.
For as well as Elias and Saugus played in the first half, they struggled to find an answer for Heritage Christian’s Savanna Fauria, who led the Warriors in scoring with 20 points.
Still, Saugus went into the half leading 35-22.
The Centurions kept the Warriors at arm’s length for most of the third quarter, but shots stopped falling as Saugus struggles against the Warriors’ man defense. With just seconds left in the third quarter, Cynthia Fuentes hit a 3-pointer to trim the Centurion lead to 51-46.
Heritage Christian took the lead with about five minutes left when Elias tripped in the lane, Fauria recovered the loose ball and laid it in at the other end for an easy breakaway. With the score tied at 60 and about one minute left, Fauria caught a missed shot under the basket and banked it in to put the Warriors up 62-60.
After Diaz’ injury, Ducharme made 1-of-2 free throws. After her second shot hit the front of the rim, Fauria laid the ball in to seal the Heritage Christian win.
Elias, who led Saugus with 22 points, said the Centurions slowed Fauria down, but she kept making shots.
“If we would’ve stopped (Fauria) we would’ve won it so easy,” Elias said. “We have a really good defender that was on her the whole game. She got frustrated.
Conn said it was tough playing five games in five days.
“It was brutal,” Conn said. “
Libbie McMahann led Saugus with six rebounds. Diaz had five points. Conn said Diaz was headed to a doctor to check on her injury.