Four games into the season, it’s a little difficult to tell how a prep basketball team is going to shape up for the road ahead. For the Saugus girls, however, one thing is clear: They’re ready for another deep playoff run.
Last season, the Centurions ended the postseason in the semifinals of the CIF-Southern Section Division 3A tournament. This year, the team has moved up to Division 2A and is eager to prove itself once again.
“We’re really motivated,” said Libbie McMahan. “We’ve been working really hard. First focusing on the first game ahead and getting to winning league and getting as far as we can in CIF. We’re working a lot harder at practice and outside of practice to get to the finals.”
Saugus has played two of its first four games in the Marlborough Tournament, first beating St. Monica 72-24 then losing to Brentwood School 65-46.
Throughout the contests, the Centurions were focused on further developing an offense that focuses on ball movement and passing.
“We’ve got to make the defense work and we’ve got to pass the ball around at practice, scrimmaging so they get into the habit of passing and cutting, setting a screen, setting up a play,” said coach Jason Conn.
Prior to the tournament, the Cents beat Glendale and North Hollywood. Maliah Sourgose, a junior, showed serious improvement in both games and was third on the team in scoring with seven points against North Hollywood. Her performance continued into the tournament, too.
“She had a really good game against Brentwood and her shot has come a long way,” McMahan said. “Her driving to the basket is getting a lot better and her defense is really good.”
Monique Febles returns at point guard for Saugus for her junior year and is leading the offense with good vision on the court and shooting prowess to match. Against North Hollywood, she ranked second on the team with 15 points behind McMahan who logged 18.
Today, Saugus continues Marlborough Tournament play against Crossroads, a team that the Centurions beat 58-55 in the 2016-17 season.
Crossroads is 4-3 on the season thus far and has Amirah O’Neal, daughter of Shaquille O’Neal, on the roster.
“She is very good inside,” Conn said. “She maneuvers very well so we’re going to have to double-team her and make things very difficult for her. She will be a challenge.”
After the tournament, the Cents move forward with their preleague slate against Santa Monica and Foothill Tech before beginning the Vaughn Tournament.
McMahan and her teammates are using the time to strengthen a handful of skills before they begin Foothill League play against Valencia on Dec. 14.
“We need to come out stronger rather than starting off slow in the beginning of the game,” McMahan said. “Focus on finishing our shots in the layups because sometimes we have those missed layups and then come out with a ton of energy would help us a lot.”