Cowboys beat Saugus, 58-45; Foothill League title shared with Hart
Canyon girls’ basketball did its job on Friday at home, beating Saugus, 58-45, to clinch a share of the Foothill League title.
It’s the second straight league title for Canyon (18-7, 11-1), and 10th overall, but this one will be shared with Hart after both teams finished with an 11-1 record in league play.
“I just think it means that we work really hard all around together, especially our JV, our varsity team,” Canyon senior Jade Sims said. “We all work really hard to get where we’ve gotten. We’ve won it, so it feels really good.”
Sims had a team-high 17 points and 11 rebounds on her senior night. The biggest applause, though, came at the beginning of the game when senior Brielle Miller was announced as a starter before coming out prior to the opening tip. Miller tore her ACL early in the season and has been unable to play during the Cowboys’ title run.
Canyon head coach Jessica Haayer was able to give Miller a minute to play at the end of the game with her team already up big, leading to another rousing ovation from the crowd.
“We’re truly honored for her,” Sims said. “We’ve been talking about this moment since she ever really got hurt, and I’m just really proud that she was able to come out there, and that’s a really big accomplishment that she could do to even get out in front of the whole entire school.”
Saugus (14-13, 7-5) did a good job of staying in the game, trailing by just five at the half. Canyon’s experience showed in the second half, though, and Centurions head coach Anthony Falasca saw some things to build on with as many as four freshmen on the court at the same time.
“I’ll be honest, the first time around a month ago, I don’t know that all of our girls believed that we could play with them,” Falasca said. “And this time around, we watched our previous game and we broke down kind of what they did and what we did. I’m gonna say every girl in that locker room believed that we could beat them tonight, and that was the difference, I thought, in the first half and that’s why we thought we kept it as close as we did.”
Saugus senior Kristen Kai had a game-high 22 points, knocking down four shots from behind the arc. Falasca said that he challenged her to keep shooting even when things weren’t going right for her at times, and she responded by hitting a couple of big baskets to keep the Centurions close in the second half.
“She’s a shooter. She’s a flat-out shooter,” Falasca said. “I didn’t know if she had any more, and now after this last week, she’s just a scorer. She can shoot it, she can go to the basket, she can make plays. She goes to the free throw line. She did anything that we needed her to do to put points on the board.”
Saugus also got eight points from freshman Shannen Wilson, despite Canyon sending two and sometimes three defenders whenever she got the ball. Junior Destiny Onovo had 10 points and seven rebounds, while freshman EvaMarie Rios had four points and five assists to go along with four rebounds.
Canyon senior Aaliyah Garcia had her typical all-around performance, recording 15 points, six assists and six rebounds. She hit a couple of deep threes stepping away from the double team, and when defenders got too close, she was able to hit an open teammate for an easy bucket.
“We knew that would happen,” Haayer said. “And then Josie [Regez] had a big game and that was something that we talked about. Kat [Garcia] had a big game, and we knew that those people couldn’t hide. Somebody had to come out tonight.”
Regez, a junior, had 14 points, while Kat Garcia, a senior, had three points but did all the little things on defense to keep Saugus from getting back in the game.
Haayer made sure to compliment her seniors for helping to bring the league title back to Canyon, calling them “her kids.”
“I love this group. They’re my kids,” Haayer said. “I’ve known them since they were 5, 6 years old. Aaliyah is the sister of one of my former players and I’ve just known them forever. They’re such a special, young group. They get along so well and they’re just super special.”
Canyon will now look forward to Sunday when basketball teams across Southern California learn where they will be playing in the CIF Southern Section playoffs. Canyon is most likely looking at a high seed in Division 2AA based on their ranking of eighth in the last CIF poll from Monday.
“We call it our next season,” Haayer said. “It’s all about just getting ready for 0-0 now, enough to win or go home.”
Saugus will also be going to the playoffs. The Centurions finished third in the league thanks to a coin flip with Valencia after both teams finished with a 7-5 league record. Saugus will be playing in Division 3AA, and Falasca knows that, even with a young team, his girls have a chance to make some noise.
“I know that I have girls that will fight from the tip to the last buzzer,” Falasca said. “We don’t give up. We’re still working on the teamwork aspect of it, but we grind. We want to be the best defensive team that we can and the best rebounding team, and I think we show up every day with an attitude that gives us a chance to win.”
The Southern Section will be releasing the playoff brackets on Sunday at noon.