Saugus girls hoops goes undefeated for first time in school history

Libbie McMahan (3) of Saugus shoots against Vanessa Zavala (33) of Hart at Saugus on Friday. Dan Watson/The Signal
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Saugus girls basketball beat Hart 62-41 on Friday night at Saugus High School to become the first undefeated basketball team — boys or girls — in school history.

The Centurions reached this point by playing gritty, grinding on defense and working hard on the court every game, something that embodies the Saugus community as a whole.

“That’s the way the community is, absolutely,” said Saugus coach Jason Conn. “It’s a middle class, hard-working community. The area works hard, and our girls take after that. They work very hard for what is theirs and what they’re trying to achieve. I think that’s always been the Saugus way over here and I’ve just kept that up.”

The Centurions (23-4 overall, 10-0 in Foothill League) had something to play for this season after a tragic shooting occurred at Saugus High School on Nov. 14. The memory of that day and the victims haven’t left the players’ minds since they stepped on the court this season.

“We just honestly dedicated … playing our game to the victims at Saugus,” said senior Monique Febles. “Dominic and Gracie, we dedicated basketball, really, any time we go on the court is for them.”

In Friday’s game, the Centurions gained an early lead against the Indians and never let go. With two minutes left in the first quarter, Febles went up for a layup that put Saugus ahead 18-5. Libbie McMahan continued the scoring run with a drive to the net and a layup.

Saugus started playing tough defense as well and was able to hold Hart (12-12, 5-5) to a 33-17 score by halftime.

On the other side of the break, the Indians’ Emma Allen was able to sink two 3-pointers within two minutes, the Cents still hung on to a 28-15 lead.

Lulu Salloom scored on two straight possessions to put Saugus ahead 39-21 and spark a scoring run that was capped by a layup from junior Riley Phipps, who had 14 points in the game, including two 3-pointers.

“This whole season, I know as soon as I pass it to her in the corner, she’s going to hit the three,” Febles said. “I have so much confidence in her and I know she’s going to do great next year.”

Febles is one of four seniors along with McMahan, Maliah Sourgose and Madison Seyforth that will graduate this year. Febles and McMahan have been starting since their sophomore seasons, and Sourgose and Seyforth have only added to the chemistry.

“All four of us seniors have pretty much been playing each year together, so the bond just got greater and greater each year,” Febles said. “We worked harder and harder. It’s been a couple of years process.”

Saugus secured the Foothill League title on Tuesday by beating Canyon and therefore is the top seed from the league heading into the CIF-Southern Section playoffs.

Hart will also be heading to the playoffs this season. Although they finished tied for third in the league with Canyon, the Indians won the coin flip tiebreaker procedure to secure the third automatic bid to playoffs.

Although Hart won the coin flip, the stakes were still high going into Friday’s game.

“We try to approach every game the same,” said Indians coach Terra Palmer. “It’s hard to put a lot of pressure on the kids and then expect them to be able to execute and perform like we want them to, so every game is a playoff game.”

Playoff brackets for this season’s CIF-SS playoffs will be released on Sunday at noon.

Valencia 36, Canyon 29

The Vikings (18-10, 8-2) secured second place in the Foothill League standings with the win. Marissa Howell led the team with 14 points and saved the game in the fourth quarter with big shots, according to coach Kevin Honaker. Mailey Ballard and Skylar Ingram each chipped in seven points.

Canyon is 18-10 and 5-5 and although they lost the league’s tiebreaker procedure for third place in the standings, they still have a chance to make the playoffs as an at-large bid.

Golden Valley 68, West Ranch 35

The Grizzlies close out the season 9-15 overall and 2-8 in Foothill League play while the Wildcats are 1-17 and 0-10.

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