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The Cents take umbrage

Saugus surprises highly touted Vikings team at Valencia High

Posted: January 13, 2009 10:21 p.m.
Updated: January 14, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Saugus' Nicole Hicks (23) goes up for a shot as Valencia's Starla Wright (34) guards Tuesday at Valencia High. Gabby Conn (3) looks on.

If Tuesday night was any indication, we are in for an exciting 2009 Foothill League girls basketball season.

Saugus shocked Valencia at Valencia High 55-53 in a 32-minute battle of wills.

Physical the entire game, the score was never farther apart than three points during the fourth quarter and was tied with 26 seconds left.

Centurion Kaitlyn Smither drained a shot near the basket to give her team the lead for good.

Saugus (8-9, 1-0) then had to withstand a barrage by Valencia (13-3, 0-1), which had three straight possessions in the waning moments, but could not get the ball to drop.

An ecstatic Centurion squad promptly celebrated, led to victory by the clutch play of seniors Nicole Hicks and Gabby Conn.

"All this talk in the newspaper saying that Valencia, Canyon have it and Saugus will go three," Conn said. "Just to come out and win that and shut everybody up, and be like, ‘Hey we are just as competitive as everyone else,' that pumped us up so much. We are going to take it on everybody now because if we can beat Valencia, and that means we can beat Canyon, Hart, Golden Valley and West Ranch. ... I'm excited."

Conn finished the game with 20 points and 12 rebounds, while Hicks racked up 15 points.

"When you've got a league this tough, records don't matter," said Saugus' first-year head coach Kent Eaton. "Every game is going to be a battle."

Rarely did a possession go by without someone hitting the deck, either for a loose ball or on a hard play.

Both Eaton and Conn addressed focus as the key and knew what it was going to take to win.

"Shutting down (Valencia's Starla Wright) and shutting down Lindsey (Hill), but mostly to play as a team because when our intensity goes up we tend to take (the ball), take it (individually)," Conn said of keys to the win.

It took Wright until the second quarter to get into her flow and she finished with 12 points, while Hill led the team with 17 points and converted three first-half steals into fast-break points.

But it wasn't enough.

"I think we had a great game plan for Valencia," Hicks said. "We knew what we had to do in order to be successful, and now we are going to take it one game at a time."

Valencia will get its chance to put the game behind it when the Vikings travel to Hart High on Friday, while the Centurions will look to continue the trend at home against West Ranch.

"Right now we won, but we have to keep our intensity up," Conn said. "If our intensity goes down, that gives room for anybody to beat us."


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