The Saugus girls basketball team found itself ahead by just one point entering the fourth quarter against Palos Verdes in the second round of the CIF-Southern Section Division 2A tournament, and Maliah Sourgose was feeling determined.
“I knew we were down maybe a few points, but I had so much confidence we were going to come back and win it,” said the junior.
“And unfortunately in the last quarter, we couldn’t score.”
After squeaking out two close wins in the previous two games, the Centurions ended their season on Saturday at Palos Verdes, falling 38-35.
Saugus (25-4 overall) jumped out to a 17-7 lead by the end of the first quarter, starting with a 3-pointer from Sourgose. The team was slowed in the second, only scoring three points to the Sea Knights’ 14 in the frame.
“I think that by the second quarter, but also going towards the end of the game, they knew me and my teammate Eden (MacKenzie) were hot, so they guarded us pretty tight at the end,” Sourgose said.
With Palos Verdes (20-10) holding a one-point advantage after halftime, point guard Monique Febles picked up her scoring efforts as a result, driving to the paint and taking advantage of any shooting opportunity.
“The first half I knew I needed to pick it up a little bit, really go out there and try my hardest,” Febles said. “I thought I need to take more control and start scoring. I noticed they were playing defense on Maliah and Eden, which gave me more an opportunity to take my shots and drive in.”
Ashlyn Canel made a basket for two points, then Febles followed up with two points of her own to give the Cents a 24-21 advantage at the start of the third quarter.
Saugus was also without sharp-shooter Libbie McMahan for the game, which gave even more incentive for other players to step up and score.
“It feels great because even if one of us falls, it’s not always dependent on the person who falls down because we can all contribute and we work really well as a team,” Sourgose said of her team’s scoring depth.
There was a one-point difference yet again at the start of the final quarter, but this time, Saugus had the advantage. Late in the fourth, however, that advantage changed hands multiple times.
Febles scored to make it 33-32 in Saugus’ favor, then the Sea Kings’ Sophia Alexio hit a trey to make it 35-33. Febles scored once more to tie the game at 35-35, but Djae Berberabe made a 3 for the final points of the game.
Prior to Palos Verdes, Saugus beat Hart 49-48 in the final game of Foothill League play before beating Newbury Park 45-43 in the first round of playoffs.
Saugus was competing in the CIF-SS Division 2A tournament after a historic season in the Division 3A tournament last season, making it all the way to the semifinals.
“I was really excited going into playoffs because we had moved up a division and we knew the teams were going to be very tough and different from Division 3, but I was so excited and thrilled to keep playing after league,” Sourgose said.
The Centurions will take a one-week break before getting back in the gym. Losing four seniors, the team returns the bulk of its starters, including Sourgose, Febles and McMahan next season.
“I think there really are no days off,” Febles said. “I think we should keep on playing hard and work 10 times harder to get even further next year.”