Trinity Knights girls’ hoops could not be stopped in the second half of its non-league matchup with the Saugus Centurions.
Trinity won the game, 48-29, after riding a 20-0 run to pull away from Saugus after a tight start to the home contest on Thursday night.
The Knights (9-2) were slated to play the Foothill Tech Dragons on Thursday but bad weather forced the would-be visiting team to cancel. Trinity coach James De Monbrun reached out to dozens of coaches looking to fill his game and his friend, Saugus head coach Anthony Falasca, found a way to make the game happen.
“Saugus was extremely selfless and agreed to play us on short notice after already practicing today,” De Monbrun said. “It just shows the character of coach Anthony and their program, that they’re willing to do a favor for a friend locally, and give both teams a chance to play game tonight. So, a huge thank you to them.”
Saugus (7-5) had already practiced for the day but still made it to the game without one starter. The Centurions played some tough defense and arguably took no ill-advised shots. However, the team just couldn’t get enough shots through the net and struggled to take the lead, even when looking in control of the game at times.
Cents point guard EvaMarie Rios led the team with 10 points. The sophomore racked up most of her points on a solo 8-0 run in the second quarter, where she knocked in two 3-pointers to cut the deficit to one point.
The Knights were led by senior Emma Schaaf, who registered 14 points, 14 rebounds, four blocks, three assists and two steals.
“It’s definitely a bit different each game because each team brings something different,” Schaaf said. “But it’s nice to have my teammates there that I can rely on.”
The senior has been a scoring machine in the post but has shown no issues playing any position for De Monbrun.
“Emma runs the one, two, three, four, five and six for us,” De Monbrun said. “She knows that she just has to do whatever it takes. And on any given night, you know, maybe it’s a night where she’s got to go down to the post and do work down there. Maybe we need help handling the ball in the full court. She’s just a selfless kid and she will do whatever the team needs from her.”
Saugus held Trinity to just six points in the third quarter. The Centurions appeared to have come out of the halftime break ready to take control of the game. Saugus’ high press forced turnovers and Trinity into offensive struggles, but the Centurions’ off shooting night continued as they matched the Knights with six points in the quarter.
Trinity started its 20-0 run in the third and nearly rode the run through the final buzzer. Saugus just couldn’t find the basket and was held without a field goal in the fourth quarter. The Cents scored just two points off of free throws from freshman Mimi Rabadi.
Falasca was pleased with his team’s efforts and thought a comeback was imminent. Saugus was playing tight defense on Schaaf, holding the senior standout to just six points in the first half.
“I thought offensively, we did what we needed to do,” Falasca said. “Emma is probably the best player in our valley and I thought we did a good job of keeping her under her average. We did a good job on her but didn’t focus enough on their other players.”
Rebounding was a key factor in the big run, as the Knights dominated the boards throughout the night. Senior Iris Weber also had a big night with 10 points and 12 rebounds.
“We’re not great at any of our offensive schemes but we’ll get there,” Falasca said. “It just comes down to putting the ball in the basket and rebounding, and we didn’t do either of those. If you don’t do either, a two-point game can turn into a 20-point loss.”
Falasca was Weber’s first basketball trainer years ago. Even in the loss, the Centurion coach told the opposing player how proud he was of the growth in her game.
“I started working one-on-one with Iris and was her first trainer and coach,” Falasca said. “She rarely said a word to me, and I told her after the game that I’m so proud of the woman and the player she’s become.”
Saugus has numerous strong rebounders on the team, but the extra effort of all five Knights on the floor led to a large disparity in the category.
“When you have girls on the other team like Natalie Weathers and Destiny Onovo, you can’t count on one or two girls to rebound,” De Monbrun said. “It’s got to be a group effort. We know that Emma and Iris are gonna end up around the basket a lot, but when you have five people rebounding and you have multiple kids chipping in and kind of carrying the load, it makes everything easier. I thought as a team, we did that. We know if we play defensive, rebound, you’re always gonna give yourself a chance to win.”
The two local coaches and players know each other well. On top of playing youth sports and growing up together, many of the Centurions play on De Monbrun’s club team Starting 5.
“When you play a team like that on short notice, you don’t have a chance to watch film,” De Monbrun said. “These kids play in the same valley, they know us and we know them. So you just kind of go into the game knowing who’s who as a player, not so much what they run as a team but who is who and what they do individually. And then you just have to do your best to adjust in the game.”
The win marks five straight for the Knights and ends the Centurions two-game win streak. De Monbrun has seen his team grow immensely so far this season. The team is expected to become even stronger once the sit-out period ends. The Knights will welcome Lucy Smith and Cassidy Freude to a lineup that may be hitting its stride at midseason.
“We’re feeling pretty good,” Schaaf said. “Our transfers are obviously going to help us a lot. We already have a pretty solid team, and adding them will just make it that much better.”
De Monbrun is grateful to his friend for helping his team get a game in and likely will be taking Falasca out for food as a thank you.
“That’s what friends do,” De Monbrun said. “There should be more friends in coaching. Unfortunately, especially in high school, there’s more egos than there are friends. That’s backwards. We’re all here to impact kids and we should be examples. He was doing us a favor and I definitely owe him pizza. Big, selfless move by him.”
Both teams will head into tournament action over the winter break before returning to league play. Trinity will head into the Burroughs tournament after Christmas, where the team will get its first look at the new lineup. Saugus will play in multiple La Cañada tournaments before heading into Foothill League action on Tuesday, Jan. 2 at home against Golden Valley at 5 p.m.
Falasca’s team is still off to a solid start but believes that the squad can be right there with anyone if they find more consistency.
“We’re trying to compete for four quarters, and I don’t know if we’ve done that all season,” Falasca said. “If we can do that, I think we’d be in any game with any team in our league.”