Winning the West Coast Holiday Festival at John Burroughs High School in Burbank on Saturday, Saugus girls basketball had all they could handle defeating Division 1 teams Chaminade and Camarillo on their title-winning run.
Opening up the tournament the day after Christmas on Dec. 26, Saugus (17-2 overall, 1-1 in Foothill League) faced off against Heritage Christian (10-7, 0-0 in Olympic League), easily dispatching the Warriors team and winning 67-35.
Next up for the Centurions was Chaminade (9-7, 0-0 in Mission League), which came off a big 56-15 win over Cleveland in the first round.
Holding a slim 27-26 lead at the break, Saugus powered through by playing aggressive defense and boasting great shooting and rebounding collectively to defeat Chaminade 65-57 to advance to the semifinals.
Playing tournament hosts John Burroughs, the Centurions had a tough time with Burroughs’ bruising physical play but were able to hang on to come away with the 53-37 win to advance to the championship game.
“There was a lot of pushing and it was just a very physical game with the style of play that Burroughs present,” said Saugus head coach Jason Conn. “Our girls hung in there and in the fourth quarter, they were able to pull within four points, but the girls got a second wind and took off.”
Next up, in the title game, was a Camarillo team that was coming into the contest boasting a 10-game winning streak with their last loss coming back on December 1st.
Both teams were able to match the other’s intensity in the first half, playing a physical defensive and barely allowing any second-chance points.
Saugus led 17-16 at the break.
Coming into the game as the No. 11 team in the state in Division 1, Camarillo (16-3, 2-0 in Coastal Canyon League) battled back in the third to take the lead 30-26.
“I told the girls to play hard defense because that’s what is going to win the game for us,” Conn said.
Listening to their coach’s directions, the Centurions were able to turn defense into offense, aggressively fighting for every rebound and loose ball.
In the final four minutes of the game, Saugus used its driving ability to get into the lane, forcing the Scorpions to foul.
Ahead 42-38 with under a minute to go in the game, the Scorpions lined up for a 1-and-1. They missed and got the rebound, but Saugus guard Eden MacKenzie was able to wrestle the ball away from the Camarillo player allowing the Cents score and bring the deficit within two points.
Camarillo was able to hit the front-end of a 1-and-1 with 18 seconds left in the game to push the lead back to three points, 43-40.
Saugus brought the ball up and was able to run a play and get a shot up with the shot clanking off the rim and falling into the hands of a Camarillo player.
Without hesitation, junior power-forward/center Madison Seyforth jumped into action and stole the ball underneath the Camarillo basket, getting fouled with 4.2 seconds left on the clock.
After hitting the first, Conn called a timeout to discuss what the team would do on the next free throw.
“I basically told Maddie, ‘you need to miss it’,” Conn said. “… and our bigs need to crash and the guards need to run in and get the rebound.”
Coming through, Seyforth missed the second free throw. Senior center Danielle Wilkes crashed the boards and took out two of the Camarillo players while MacKenzie rushed to the into the key grabbed the ball.
With one dribble, MacKenzie stepped out behind the 3-point line and hit the dagger 3 in the corner to push the Centurions to win 44-43 and be crowned the West Coast Holiday Festival Champions.
“It was amazing,” Conn said. “It was a once-in-a-blue-moon win. Everything had to work out just perfect. The girls rushed the court and parents and fans went crazy.”
Monique Febles took home MVP of the tournament and MacKenzie got first-team honors.
With the win, Saugus improves to 17-2 overall and slides into the No. 4 spot in CIF-Southern Section Division 2A standings.
Saugus gets a bit of a break until Jan. 8th when they pick league play back up against Golden Valley at Golden Valley at 5 p.m.
“We need a rest,” Conn said. “I gave them some time off until Wednesday and I think the rest will heal some bumps and bruises and I think they will come back more invigorated.
“Now we have to get ready for league and play up to our potential.”