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Prep basketball: Stubborn hosts

Canyon comes from behind to win its own Canyon Classic tournament

Posted: December 9, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Updated: December 9, 2012 1:55 a.m.

Canyon's Ben Taufahema (3) is fouled from behind by Saugus defender Jeff Ashburn on Saturday in the championship game of the Canyon Classic tournament at Canyon High School. Canyon won 43-42.

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Three times during Saturday night’s Canyon Classic championship at Canyon High School did Canyon boys basketball trail Foothill League-rival Saugus at the end of a quarter.

But those three times just didn’t matter enough to the Cowboys, who rode a late wave of momentum and a significant home-court advantage to steal a 43-42 victory in an early season matchup that felt more like a playoff game.

“Our intensity obviously picked up later in the game,” said Cowboys head coach Sean DeLong. “But our style of play is to wear teams down with our intensity, and we bank on our aggressiveness leading to fourth quarter success.”

Saturday night’s non-league contest played out in exactly that fashion, but early on it was hard to imagine that Canyon (7-1) would come out on top, especially considering the level of play exhibited by the Centurions.

Saugus (3-1) shut down the Cowboys throughout the majority of the game, forcing Canyon to settle for contested three-point shots and long jumpers.

Fortunately for Canyon, tournament MVP Marc Cabrera was content to take what Saugus’ defense gave him.

The junior guard nailed four 3-pointers on the way to 14 points Saturday, making the Centurions pay for missed defensive assignments and compensating for Canyon’s inability to score inside or from the free-throw line.

Inversely, Saugus ran its offense from the inside-out, hammering the paint and causing a notable discrepancy in free throw attempts between the two teams.

Saugus attempted 19 shots from the foul line, whereas Canyon didn’t attempt a free throw until Cowboys junior guard Mark Bell reached the stripe with 1:50 remaining in the third quarter.  

But getting to the line was only half the battle.

Saugus made good on just 11 of their 19 attempts, a 57 percent mark.

“We were terrible from the free throw line tonight,” said Centurions head coach Derek Ballard. “We played outstanding defense and adhered to what we wanted to do, we just didn’t shoot well enough to take advantage of that and spread this game out.”

Because Saugus was unable to cash in on free throws and jumpers, its fragile lead, which was maintained for all but the final three minutes, eventually disappeared.

Down 33-32 late in the game, Canyon sophomore guard Ben Taufahema scored three straight points to spark a 6-0 run that gave Canyon a five-point lead with just over a minute left to play.

After holding off a final surge from Saugus, in which Centurions senior guard Jeff Ashburn brought the game within reach at 41-40 in the game’s final seconds, Canyon captured the Canyon Classic trophy for the fourth time in the event’s 13-year history.

Chris Lockwood led Saugus with 10 points.

Saugus will look to pick up the victory it feels was left on the court Saturday against Lompoc next Wednesday.
Canyon moves forward against Santa Clara on Tuesday.

“Tonight, we were as good as we needed to be” DeLong said. “And while we want to be the best we can possibly be, sometimes that’s enough.”

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