No matter the outcome Friday night, the Saugus girls basketball team was likely headed to postseason.
The Centurions were in fourth place heading into their regular-seaosn finale against Hart but were destined for an at-large bid in CIF-Southern Section Division 3A due to their success in preleague play.
They removed all doubt with a 63-60 win over the Indians and followed the win on the court with another off of it. The Cents won a coin toss directly after the contest to earn the third and final automatic postseason bid through the Foothill League
“The girls never stopped playing defense, hitting their spots and hitting clutch shots,” said Saugus coach Jason Conn. “We had some people come up huge.”
Libbie McMahan, who led Saugus with 15 points, drained back-to-back 3-pointers to put Saugus up 42-39 with a little over three minutes to play in the game. A pair of baskets from Madison Seyforth gave the Cents their biggest lead since the second quarter at 46-41. Emily Munoz followed with a jumper to bring Hart back within a single possession. But the Indians were unable to put up a 3-pointer on their final possession to tie it.
“You’ve got to give it up to Saugus,” said Hart coach Terra Palmer. “They’ve gotten better every year (under Conn). The past few years this game hasn’t been that close but they gave us two great games this year.”
A crowd at Saugus (19-7, 5-5 Foothill League), which was nearly filled to capacity in anticipation of the boys game to determine the Foothill League title, chanted “M-V-P” as McMahan went to the free-throw line to close out the win.
“I wasn’t even really worried about hitting the free throws,” McMahan said. “We were already going to win and I was just so excited. It was a pretty crazy moment.
Saugus opened the game on a 13-5 run but the Indians chased that by halftime, carrying a 28-27 lead. Hart (14-13, 5-5) was still without top post contributor Trudy Larkins due to injury and were without leading scorer Annie Christofferson for the fourth quarter Friday due to an injury as well. Christofferson still led the Indians with 15 points.
Monique Febles was second on Saugus with 11 points and Reagan McKeaver was second on Hart with eight points.
Despite the loss, Palmer was still confident in Hart’s chances to earn an at-large bid in Division 2A. They Indians had made appearances in the Division 2A poll throughout the season.