Six points was all they needed. Six points stood between the teary-eyed, yet proud, Saugus girls basketball team and a trip to the program’s first-ever CIF-Southern Section final. “(Playing in this game) meant a lot, honestly, just to the team and because Saugus hasn’t really made it to the finals at all and it’s really good just to get there and show everybody that we can get there,” said sophomore Libbie McMahan after the 49-44 loss to Beverly Hills. The Centurions kept the Saturday night game close, earning a 16-15 lead on a McMahan layup with two minutes to go in the second quarter. But the Normans knocked down a 3-pointer to close out the half and give themselves a 21-18 lead. With five minutes left in the third, McMahan hit another 3 that gave Saugus a 24-23 lead, but Beverly Hills’ Arbri Gillis scored 10 seconds later to take back the lead.
Saugus (22-8) found themselves on top twice more in the third frame, but a pair of Chantal Moawad free throws put the Normans (23-5) ahead 30-29. Moawad and Michelle Duchemin kept the Centurion defense busy throughout the night, with the former scoring 15 points and the latter 14. “They were very athletic,” said coach Jason Conn. “They were just more aggressive. And we didn’t move our feet as well as we should have defensively and I don’t think the pressure was as strong as it could have been.” Beverly Hills went on a 12-0 run in the fourth quarter to bring them closer to a win. With 44 seconds left to play, McMahan drained yet another 3-pointer to bring the Cents within four points of tying the game. Danny Diaz also contributed four points in the fourth frame to give the team some hope. “Danny was huge,” Conn said. “She’s a warrior. She’s fearless. She gives 110 percent all the time. She’s not afraid to take the ball to the basket even up against a 6-2 girl.” McMahan led the team with 19 points, followed by Vanessa Ogbu with nine. Although the CIF-SS run is over, Saugus has still earned a berth in the state tournament. And beyond that, they have 10 expected returners for next season. “I think we’re going to be probably just as good or even better than we were this year,” said McMahan. “Everyone is hopefully coming back and we’re not losing too many people so we’re going to be a better team than this year and we’re going to work for it and get there next year.”