Saugus girls hoops falls short in first round of CIF tournament

Saugus girls basketball's Danny Diaz keeps the ball away from Sunny Hills players in a CIF state tournament game at Sunny Hills on Wednesday. Haley Sawyer/The Signal

FULLERTON – After a timeout in the third quarter in the CIF Division 3 state tournament game against Sunny Hills, the Saugus girls basketball team stood in a circle, put their hands in and broke with a simple chant:

“One, two, three … Play hard,” shouted each player and staff member.

The Centurions played hard – just like they had throughout this historic season – but came up short against the Lancers 57-34 on Wednesday night at Sunny Hills.

Turnovers littered the first half and put Saugus (22-9) in a hole early, as the Lancers were able to capitalize on nearly every intercepted pass.

By halftime, the Cents found themselves down 28-16.

“We don’t really turn the ball over this much,” said senior Danny Diaz. “I think we’re just overthinking everything.

“…We could’ve eventually beat them, but we just needed to calm down a bit and just focus on our game.”

The Lancers’ Jessica Barrow particularly made the night difficult for Saugus, as she scored 23 points and provided ample prowess on defense.

“She’s an incredible player,” Diaz said. “We just couldn’t stick on her the whole time. Like, our defense was kind of mixed up, but we tried out hardest and that’s all we can do.”

Sophomore Vanessa Ogbu paced the Centurions with nine points. Monique Febles followed with six and Diaz chipped in six as well.

The third quarter brought a brief, five-point scoring run for Saugus, which was capped by a Diaz layup. However, Diaz was taken out moments later due to a knee injury concern.

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“I was pumped,” said Diaz. “I was just looking to score, actually. I was just looking at the basket and I don’t know, like, towards the end I felt like a popping and … my coach pulled me out right away.”

With one minute and 41 seconds left in the game, Sunny Hills (21-10), which lost in the CIF-Southern Section Division 3AA semifinals to Cabrillo, pulled its starters, allowing the Cents to knock down a handful of baskets before closing out the game.

The state playoff game marked the longest postseason run in Saugus girls basketball history.

Two seniors will graduate from this year’s squad, leaving a corps of eager and seasoned underclassmen the opportunity to make history once again next year.

“They will remember this and they will know what to do next time they get into this situation,” said coach Jason Conn.

“They’re very smart girls, they’re very intelligent, they know what to do. So you’ve got to just congratulate the other team and move on to next year.”

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