Saugus girls upset Valencia, 58-52, for first win

Saugus' Destiny Onovo, 12, snags a rebound from Canyon's Kodia Koko Booker, 21, during a conference game between the Canyon Cowboys and Saugus Centurions at Saugus High School on Friday Feb. 4, 2022. The Cowboys won 65-49 and claimed the Foothill League Title after the Hart Indians lost to the Valencia Vikings. Chris Torres/The Signal

Centurions freshman Shannen Wilson drops 20 points in Foothill League opener

The best-kept secret in the Santa Clarita Valley is now out: Saugus freshman Shannen Wilson is the real deal. 

Wilson scored 20 points in her Foothill League debut as the Centurions (1-4, 1-0) knocked off the previously unbeaten Valencia Vikings (5-1, 0-1), 58-52, at home on Tuesday. 

“I looked on the floor one time in the fourth quarter and I looked at my assistant coach Michelle [Lewitt] and I said, ‘We have four freshmen and one sophomore on the floor right now,’” Saugus head coach Anthony Falasca said. “And she looked at me and she’s like, ‘This future is gonna be bright.’” 

Bright might be putting it mildly. Wilson was the star, going 7-of-13 from the floor with two 3-pointers, but she had help from another freshman in EvaMarie Rios, who logged 16 points and four assists. 

It’s the sort of combination that should have Falasca, just weeks into his first season in charge, rethinking any plans for a rebuild. 

Saugus got off to a hot start before the Vikings began to get into the game. The Centurions kept their foot on the pedal, though, and went into halftime with a 31-28 advantage. 

“Before we started the game, big, written on the board was energy,” Falasca said. “We knew that [the Vikings] were going to come with it, we knew they’re undefeated. They’re a good team. You see how they shoot it, they play high intensity, and we wanted to match it, but not only match it, but be more energy than they had. And I thought we did that.” 

The Centurions continued to press the floor, with Falasca and Rios tasked with picking up the ball as soon as it crossed half court. That led to multiple fastbreak opportunities, and even when the Vikings were able to get back, Wilson was there to create something out of nothing. 

Valencia made a game of it late, with junior Libertine Oxciano getting nine of her game-high 23 points in the fourth quarter. But with the game on the line, Falasca stuck with his young players to get the job done, and they were able to hold strong. 

It was a similar story in the Centurions’ first four games. The Centurions lost to Westlake by 13, but they’ve lost by just three and by five twice. Falasca has been impressed with how his young group has been able to mature so quickly and responded to his teaching. 

“I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you that with four minutes left, they start hitting threes, I didn’t get nervous,” Falasca said. “But we called time out, we calmed down, and I’ll have to do that more this year because we’re so young. I think we’ll be fine. We’re gonna have some growing pains. I hope that the first three games are those growing pains, but I’m sure we’ll have another one and we’re gonna grow, we’re gonna learn. I’m a big teacher. I think there’s never a time that you can’t teach something. I hope we go up from here.” 

Valencia had senior Chelsea Besina and freshman Cara McKell finish with 10 points each. McKell added six rebounds, while Besina had two assists and six rebounds. 

Valencia will host Castaic on Friday at 5 p.m., while the Centurions will stay home on Friday when they host West Ranch at 5 p.m. looking to stay hot. 

“I was super excited when I got here,” Falasca said. “I’m more excited now that I see that they can handle games and pressure like this.” 

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