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The Big Four and Two More

Posted: January 25, 2008 2:48 a.m.
Updated: March 27, 2008 2:02 a.m.
 
Brain teaser fans, Sudoku has nothing on this one.
The Saugus High girls basketball team beat Valencia, which beat Hart, which beat Saugus and Canyon, which beat Valencia.
Now stop scratching your head for a second and answer this question: Which is the Foothill League's best team right now?
This is the midway point's riddle.
There's a tie for first place, a tie for third place and Golden Valley High, despite a 5-14 start to its season and losses by a combined 96 points in its first four tries against Foothill League opponents this year, is not the valley's last place team.
That's how unpredictable the first half has been.
As the teams prepare for their do-overs and go through the schedule one more time, there is still plenty to be decided.
T1. Hart (13-7 overall,074-1 in league)
New players. New coach. Same school, though.
The six-time defending champions showed some rare chinks in their armor in an overtime loss against Valencia and trailed for most of their win against Canyon, but with Tuesday night's victory over Saugus, they are established as the team to beat.
Starting center Megan Ford (20 points per game) is clearly the valley's most dominant player and guards Kelli Lewis and Roselyn Angilau can both fill it up enough to complement her.
Add in some trademark Hart defense and the tradition factor and the Indians head into the second half of league with a swagger.
T1. Saugus (17-4 overall, 4-1 in league play)
We're as shocked as anybody Saugus isn't listed first on this list.
The runaway favorites because of their experience and an impressive first 20 games prior to Tuesday night's setback against the Indians, the Centurions have the deepest starting five in the league and guard Lauren Labat is emerging as a dominant scorer, averaging 16.6 points in five Foothill contests.
Had either of a pair of last-second 3-point tries found the bottom of the net at home, Saugus would still be all alone in first. The question is, how it deals with its newfound co-favorite status?
T3. Canyon (12-9, 3-2)
Two of its starters are sophomores and its two best bench players are freshmen, a combination which might have kept the Cowboys from pulling off a pair of winnable upsets thus far.
But it may be the valley's fastest and scariest team.
With the most effective fullcourt press in the league and a team that will only get more confident after Tuesday's win over Valencia, the Cowboys should qualify as a super sleeper.
Home games against Saugus and Hart will both be important.
T3. Valencia (14-7, 3-2)
The emergence of transfer Starla Wright in the post to go with guards Chelsey Hastigan and Lindsey Hill has given Valencia an inside-outside attack that, prior to Tuesday's 36-32 setback against the Cowboys, had been firing on all cylinders.
Hastigan is the valley's best 3-point shooter.
Wright scored 22 against Hart and 29 against West Ranch.
Now if the Vikings can continue to be the team they became during a three-game winning streak in between their two league losses, the squad, despite returning just one starter from last year's second place team, has proven it belongs in the top four.
5. Golden Valley (6-14, 1-4)
The Grizzlies do not appear ready to hang with the big four yet, having lost to Hart by 30 points, Saugus and Canyon by 25 points and Valencia by 16 in the first go-through in league.
But suddenly they have something to smile about.
Sophomore Jasmine Jefferson, who scored 19 points in the win over the Wildcats, is a post player capable of breaking out.
After two straight playoff appearances in the program's first two varsity seasons, it will take a mini-miracle for a third, though.
6. West Ranch (11-10, 0-5)
The Wildcats started Foothill League play just one win shy of qualifying for their first-ever at-large playoff consideration.
Five games later, they're still waiting for it to come.
Despite returning their entire starting lineup from a year ago, the Wildcats are still the league's youngest team and it has shown.
Last year's squad also had an 0-5 start, turning things around in the second half somewhat by beating Golden Valley. The Wildcats may have to settle for a similar goal this time around.

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