Saugus girls hoops uses new talent to stifle Palos Verdes

Saugus girls basketball is a balanced team this summer in terms of experience. But when it comes to bigs, most of them are entering their first year of varsity. They seem to be gaining confidence quickly, however, as the Centurions beat Palos Verdes 47-29 for their second win of the Saugus Summer Classic.

Fresh-faced bigs like Ruth Kempler, Shauntell Lowe and returner Maddie Seyforth used their height to pressure Palos Verdes on defense and hold them scoreless until there was eight minutes left in the first 20-minute half.

“It is intimidating,” said coach Jason Conn. “When their hands are up they’re 8 feet tall, it’s hard to shoot over them especially when our zone defense and our wings, we’ve got big wings running out at you.”

Kempler, a sophomore, also scored six points in the contest after not logging any baskets in the Cents’ game against Burroughs earlier in the day.

“It’s harder because it’s like faster … But it’s definitely more fun, more learning,” Kempler said. “Everyone is also tall and on freshman not everyone is tall like me. When you’re on varsity everyone is tall so you have to fight for your position and fight more in general, be more aggressive.”

Saugus’ starters were able to get a 10-0 advantage over the Sea Kings, who went 3-5 in the Bay League last season before making wholesale changes at the 11-minute mark to get fresh legs in the game.

It took Lowe just one minute to score on a jumper, then Kempler got back-to-back baskets to give the Centurions a 16-3 lead.

With 3:35 left in the first half, the starters took the floor once again. Libbie McMahan, who had a team-high nine points, drained a 3-pointer, then Monique Febles made two free throws to close out the first half.

Saugus rolled the momentum into the second half, scoring eight points within the first five minutes.

Shortly after making a jump shot, Febles went down underneath the basket with an apparent ankle injury. Sophomore Victoria Phan took over at point guard for Febles and immediately made one of two free throws.

“She did a good job,” Conn said of Phan. “She can control the tempo of the game, she does have very good experience dribbling the ball.”

Eden Mackenzie, who can play at shooting guard as well, also logged some time at point guard. With 3:35 left in the game, Mackenzie launched a pass to Riley Phipps, who went in for a basket before scoring two points for herself on a layup.

“She does a very good job of handling the ball,” Conn said. “She sees it, she sees the floor, she wants to pass.”

Playing on their home court, the Centurions are determined to win the tournament, which continues tomorrow. The 16-team tournament includes Foothill League teams Hart and Valencia in addition to Division 1 teams like Sierra Canyon, Harvard-Westlake, Ventura and Chaminade.

“We always want to win badly, but then when we’re coming together and he (Conn) says, ‘This is our home, our home team,’ then we really like feel it’s our obligation to win,” Kempler said.

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