Centurions finish regular season with fourth straight league win
Saugus senior Max Tengan continued his dominant season for the Centurions, pouring in 20 points in the second half and finishing with a game-high 26 points to lead his team to a comeback win on the road at Canyon, 50-46.
Tengan picked up three fouls early in the third quarter, giving him four for the game, but Saugus head coach Alfredo Manzano trusted his star guard to not foul out. He was rewarded with a game-winning performance that spoiled the Cowboys’ senior night and gave Saugus four straight Foothill League wins to close out the regular season.
“I didn’t have the first half I wanted, but I just trusted my team, trusted my coach and just let the game come to me,” Tengan said.
The Centurions had been trailing for nearly the entire game after leading 9-8 midway through the first quarter. They didn’t take the lead again until Tengan hit a deep 3-pointer 10 seconds into the fourth quarter.
“This dude is a killer, man,” Manzano said. “I literally almost pulled him with that fourth foul, and we made an adjustment, we went zone to try to protect him a little bit, and he’s a smart player. I saw him a couple of times here, could have probably tried to be in the fight to get that rebound, but he backed off. So I trusted him and he stuck with it.”
The zone worked to protect Tengan and the basket. After shooting 52% from the field in the first half, the Cowboys were held to 35% in the second half and ended up with a loss on senior night.
Canyon senior Kobe Ennis had a team-high 18 points in what Canyon head coach Ali Monfared said was “his best performance” as a Cowboy. Some of those shots were clutch as well, including a 3-pointer midway through the fourth that he was able to sink through contact to make it a two-point game.
“My teammates were setting me up to their best capability,” Ennis said. “Overall, we played together as a team, what we’ve been trying to do all year, and we’re clicking at the right time and we’re looking forward to making a big push in playoffs.”
Canyon had its playoff spot guaranteed thanks to Valencia’s win over Hart on Friday.
Saugus already had a playoff spot locked up, but was looking to clinch second with a win and a Valencia loss. Both teams won, though, and the Centurions were able to take second by winning the coin flip.
Canyon got performances from all over, especially the seniors on their special night. Senior Lincoln Phillips had seven points, four assists and six rebounds, while fellow senior Carson Rodi had eight points and four rebounds.
“We have seven seniors and every single one of them has contributed and is special to our program and myself in their own unique ways,” Monfared said. “I could spend an hour talking about each of them. My message to them, my only question I really had before the game was, ‘Let’s not have this be our last Canyon home game.’ Likely, we’re going to be on the road to start, and we just want another opportunity for our seniors to be able to play another Canyon home game.”
Canyon senior Reese Valdes was unable to play after suffering a bucket handle meniscus tear in October, according to Monfared. The Cowboys were still able to let him have his moment before the game with a fake tip before Phillips took the floor in his place.
“[Valdes is] a three-year varsity starter that ended up getting hurt in October, but has come every day to practice, has been a player-coach, has had a phenomenal attitude and has really dealt with adversity like a champion,” Monfared said.
Tengan had some help from different players throughout the game, with junior Justin Perez recording 11 points and seven rebounds. He hit two free throws late in the game to push the Centurions’ lead back to four.
“Justin wasn’t having the game that he’s had the last couple of games,” Manzano said. “Rebounding, he was he was solid, but those are two clutch free throws for a junior getting all the first-time experience on varsity.”
Saugus and Canyon will now wait for the release of the CIF Southern Section playoff brackets, which are scheduled to be sent out on Sunday at noon.
The Centurions, after starting the season without any expectations from the outside, believe that they have what it takes to make a deep run in Division 2AA.
“I think we feel like there’s a lot more pressure since we kind of made a name for ourselves now,” Tengan said. “So teams have to keep an eye out for us. But, you know, just keep the same mentality, just go hard.”
The Cowboys would have liked to have entered the postseason with a victory, but can rest easy knowing that their spot is solidified. Ennis thinks that with some minor adjustments, he and his teammates will be ready for the Division 3AA playoffs.
“Overall, we had a couple of mistakes that we will go back tomorrow, watch film and be able to fix these mistakes that we made throughout the second half,” Ennis said. “We’ll fix it and [we’re] looking forward to making the push throughout the playoffs.”