Saugus girls basketball uses defense to defeat Foothill Tech

Saugus' Monique Febles (1) drives past Foothill Tech defender Cierra Mosienthal (3) at Saugus on Tuesday. Dan Watson/The Signal
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While the final score read 41-37, it wasn’t indicative of how the girls basketball game went between Saugus and Foothill Tech at Saugus High School on Tuesday night.

The Centurions (6-1) were in control for the entire evening and never trailed, using an 11-3 first-quarter advantage to withstand any comeback the Dragons (3-2) were hoping to make.

In fact, the Cents were so full of energy and focused on pushing the tempo that sometimes they turned the ball over simply because they were moving too quickly.

“We have to clean it up, we were rushing. We were up 11-3 and I told them the game is over if we get up 20-3, but we missed too many easy shots and we rushed,” said Saugus head coach Jason Conn. “A lot of it was just missed shots and we rushed. In the second half, I told them be more patient. Let’s run the shot clock and they did a good job of it.”

While the offense struggled at times, Saugus’ defense was suffocating throughout the contest, utilizing a full-court press that forced Foothill Tech into several turnovers.

The Dragons didn’t make their first field goal until less than three minutes left in the first quarter and their second field goal came a few minutes into the second period.

“Absolutely we’re predicated on our defense. We try to hold teams to 35, 36 points which we did tonight,” Conn said. “If we’re not playing defense and we’re not pressing then we’re not as good as we can be. We’ve gotten after it. We play hard and I’m really proud of them tonight because I know how good Foothill Tech is.”

“If we’re having an off game offensive-wise, we need to go out there 10 times harder on defense and get the game back,” said junior point guard Monique Febles. “You really have to go hard on defense especially if you’re not on on offense.”

Febles finished the game with eight points, four rebounds (all offensive), three steals and one assist, but more important than her stats in the box score was her ability to set up the offense and break through Foothill Tech’s press defense.

Her aggressiveness and ability to drive the lane often led to easy buckets for Saugus. Also, having a point guard that is so adept at grabbing offensive rebounds is an added bonus for a player that Conn believes doesn’t get enough recognition for all that she does on the court.

“Monique scored 19 on Saturday, 19 last night. She really keeps us together with her dribbling and ball handling and she gets overshadowed which she shouldn’t,” Conn said. “Mo getting the ball up the floor, she is very good at what she does. Controlling the tempo of the game and she’s getting better at it.”

“We all contribute, especially on the press break. We have our plays set up for that, but sometimes I do need to push myself to get the team going a little bit,” Febles said. “I think coach wants me to focus on my ball handling and help the team in that way.”

Junior Libbie McMahan recorded a double-double with 15 points and 12 rebounds, while also leading the team with four assists, three steals and a block.

She also played every minute of the game and never seemed to run out of steam.

Even after taking a hard hit in Saugus’ win the night before against Santa Monica, McMahan was ready to play a full 32 minutes on Tuesday.

“Last night we played Santa Monica, she is on a breakaway, goes in, makes the layup and gets fouled. She gets smashed into the boards and she’s down in pain and I say ‘Are you OK?’ She says, ‘Did I make the layup?’ First thing out of her mouth is if she made the layup,” Conn said. “And then she comes and plays every minute tonight. She’s just nonstop. She’s the Energizer Bunny and sometimes I have to reel her back in because she’s just constantly going.”

Saugus’ Libbie McMahan (3) drives to the basket against Foothill Tech defender Maddie Ozbourn (12) at Saugus on Tuesday. Dan Watson/The Signal

After recovering from a concussion that sidelined her for the start of the season, sophomore guard Eden MacKenzie came off the bench and sparked the Cents’ second unit in her first game of the year.

MacKenzie finished with three points, two steals, a block and a rebound and was a critical part of Saugus’ smothering defense.

“I challenged the bench before the game and they stepped up tonight,” Conn said. “Eden was spectacular. Her defense, her rebounding, everything. I’m very pleased. Also, Danielle Wilkes came in and got some rebounds and had a big bucket that was huge. That’s all I can ask from my bench. Come in and play your role and they did tonight.”

Wilkes finished with two points and two rebounds. Junior Maliah Sourgose finished with seven points, one steal and a rebound and senior Ashlyn Canel logged four points, seven rebounds, three steals and two assists.

Junior center Madison Seyforth rounded out the scoring with two points while adding four rebounds, two assists, two steals and a block.

Saugus will take its three-game winning streak to Westlake Village on Monday, Dec. 3 for the Vaughn Tournament. The tournament is set to conclude on Saturday, Dec. 8.

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