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The Day After Hoops: Battle tested for playoffs

Foothill League play was tough, now teams are ready for the next season

Posted: February 12, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: February 12, 2011 1:55 a.m.

The Foothill League basketball teams are done knocking each other around.

Now, a lot of them will get the opportunity to try to impose their will on other teams around the division - in the postseason.

"Playoffs are always fun because the teams don't really know each other," said Saugus boys basketball head coach Derek Ballard.

Saugus was one of three teams that finished with 5-5 league records and tied for third place.

Due to head-to-head tiebreakers between the teams, Hart won the No. 3 seed and a guaranteed playoff spot.

Saugus follows in fourth and West Ranch comes in fifth. Both teams will likely receive at-large bids into the CIF-Southern Section Division IIAA playoffs.

The Centurions, however, are the highest ranked team among the three according to Monday's CIF poll, which has them at No. 16 in the division.

Canyon is ranked No. 14 in the same poll.

Saugus' rank could have something to do with the level of competition in the Foothill League, but the 13-4 non-league record doesn't hurt either.

"Everyone kind of beats each other, and we wanted to finish a little better than we did at 5-5," Ballard said. "But we fought every bit of the way, and that's where we ended up."

The polls may change after Saugus lost its last two league games, finishing with Thursday's 79-62 defeat at the hands of West Ranch.

Justin Ballenger broke a school record by sinking six 3-pointers for West Ranch and finished with 22 points in the contest. Ako Kaluna also set new school records for points and rebounds in a season during the game with 415 and 300, respectively.

The Indians also lost their final league matchup, a 38-36 final against league-champion Valencia, which is No. 15 in the Division IAA poll.

It was Hart's third league loss by three points or less this season.

"We had it," said Hart head coach Tom Kelly. "We're playing a lot better and our league is a dogfight. We're eight points away from winning the league."

Then again, Canyon was only one point short of a league title.

If not for the Cowboys' 60-59 loss to West Ranch on Jan. 21, they would have shared the championship with Valencia.

Second-place Canyon did finish on a high note, though, recording a 67-38 rout of Golden Valley on Thursday.

Like the other playoff-bound teams though, the postseason is a new animal.

"That's the exciting part too," Kelly said. "It's like we said in practice, ‘Starting today, we're playing on borrowed time.'"

The final standings wasn't nearly as complicated for the girls.

Canyon had already secured the outright league title, and it beat heavy underdog Golden Valley 65-24 on Thursday to finish the season 9-1 against Foothill opponents.

Shorty Dent led with 17 points, and the No. 4-ranked Cowboys are feeling pretty good with playoffs on the horizon.

"We shot the ball real well the last week of the season," said Canyon head coach Chuck Johns. "That's something you like to see late in the season. It shows that they still have legs."

Wrapping up second place was Valencia, who escaped with a 45-43 home victory over Hart on Thursday.

The Vikings led most of the fourth quarter, but Hart came roaring back in the closing minutes. Melissa Boscarino's desperation shot at the end fell short, as did the Indians' comeback attempt.

Senior Lauren Spargo posted her third double-double of the season with 15 points and 14 rebounds for Valencia, which finished league play 7-3 and is ranked No. 9 in Division IA.

Though Spargo and forward Faith Anumba are the usual scorers for the team, Valencia head coach Jerry Mike said other contributions will be needed by the guards and bench players.

"It's just going to get harder," Mike said of the playoffs. "You've got to play stronger defense. If we could have three perimeter scorers with Faith in the middle, I think we're hard to beat."

The other guaranteed playoff spot went to Saugus, which locked up third place with a narrow 56-52 win over West Ranch.

Due to its overall record and No. 11 ranking in Division IIAA, West Ranch has a good chance for an at-large berth.

No matter which playoff division they are in, the league season has left teams well prepared for the postseason.

"When the Foothill League is better, I think that's good sign and we start to get some respect in the polls," Johns said.




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