Saugus girls basketball beats Canyon for first time in seven years

Saugus teammates Eden MacKenzie (20), left, and Ashlyn Canel (40), right, smother Canyon's Lucy Collins (33) at Saugus High School on Friday. Dan Watson/The Signal

Seven years. That’s how long it was since Saugus girls basketball beat Canyon. It was a 52-50 win in 2012.

But on Friday night, the Centurions continued to write the latest chapter in their success story, beating the Cowboys 32-24 at Saugus.

“Oh my gosh. It’s, I’m at a loss for words,” said senior Alexis Jimenez. “It’s so exciting. Being a senior this year, being with this program for three years, its been tough to like, get blown out by Canyon and so to finally be at the same level as them and be able to beat them, it feels really good.”

At its start, the game didn’t seem too historic. Canyon’s Chidinma Okafor won the opening tip-off, but that was the only clear advantage one team appeared to have in the first half as shots weren’t falling for either side throughout the first half.

With slightly less than eight minutes to go in the opening frame, Canyon’s Lucy Collins rebounded a missed shot by Okafor for the first two points of the game.

As the teams traded baskets, Saugus’ Monique Febles drove up the sideline and into the paint for a layup to tie the game at 4-4 with two minutes left in the first quarter.

Eden MacKenzie scored for the Cents (19-2 overall, 3-1 in Foothill League) and Okafor for the Cowboys to close out the first with a 6-6 tie.

“I think we were kind of intimidated by playing Canyon, so it was just mentally, you have to get yourself together,” Jimenez said. “I think we get so nervous that we get intimidated and we just chuck them up just because we’re scared.”

Jimenez picked up the scoring in the second quarter, corralling a loose ball near the five-minute mark and scoring on a layup. Less than 30 seconds later, she intercepted an inbound pass, took a few dribbles and took it in for another layup.

Canyon’s Kiki Taufaasau tied the game at 10-10, but Jimenez shot a 3-pointer to put Saugus up 14-10 with 15 seconds left in the second quarter.

“She’s a senior and she’s been through this and you could just tell that she was just calm,” said  Cents coach Jason Conn. “She was just, her shot tonight was just relaxed, calm, it wasn’t rushed. She said herself, everything was smooth. And it was a huge difference.”

The Cowboys (11-11, 3-1) were able to take advantage of a few free throws to collect some points in the third quarter, but Saugus’ press held them to just four points excluding those scored from the charity stripe.

“We’ve to score and that comes with people stepping up and getting in the gym and taking those shots and I don’t think our bigs scored enough either,” said Canyon coach Jessica Haayer. “And just wanting it. Wanting it more than me. I don’t think there’s a single person that wants it more than me and when that happens we’re going to be very good.”

Jimenez nailed a jumper with two minutes left in the quarter as the Centurions were able to score 12 points in the frame.

The Cowboys’ Julia Fung scored the first points of the fourth quarter with five minutes left in the stanza and Genesis Gonzalez hit a 3 to make it 32-24, but Saugus was already in comfortable distance of the win.

Libbie McMahan led the Centurions with 14 points, while Jimenez followed with 10. Okafor chipped in 10 for the Cowboys and Taufaasau had seven.

“It’s huge for our girls,” Conn said of the win. “It gets the monkey off our back. We know that we can beat them now and now the next thing we should be so much more relaxed.”

Saugus next hosts Hart on Tuesday, while Canyon hosts Valencia. Tip-off for both games is 5 p.m.

Valencia 62, Golden Valley 35

Mailey Ballard scored 20 points for the Vikings (9-8, 4-0) and also had four steals. Jasmine Ahllamara also had 20 points with six steals. Marissa Howell scored 11 points and Skylar Ingram had six points an 10 rebounds.

Golden Valley moves to 8-11 and 0-4 and travels to West Ranch on Tuesday.

Hart 62, West Ranch 23

Hart’s Emily Munoz scored 14 points and logged six steals and five rebounds. Leila Uribe had 11 points and three steals and Emma Allen had 10 points, seven assists and six rebounds. Hart improves to 3-14 and 2-2.

West Ranch is 2-14 and 0-4.

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