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This is how it’s going to be

Saugus defeats Valencia in double OT

Posted: January 13, 2009 9:47 p.m.
Updated: January 14, 2009 4:55 a.m.
There's an imaginary geographical line that separates part of the Santa Clarita Valley.

That line indicates whether one plays basketball for Saugus or Valencia high schools. It's a very thin marker, considering the rivalry these two teams fought down to the wire last season, with the Vikings grabbing the league crown by just one game.

For each team's Foothill League opener this season, things stayed close.

The high-pressure defense of the spunky Centurions engineered a tough 69-65 road victory in double overtime over the Vikings.

In the last period, Saugus junior Jawhar Purdy scored five of his 15 points, including a long 3-pointer, to lead his team to it's ninth win of the season.

"Jawhar has really played well lately," said Saugus head coach Derek Ballard. "When he plays with this intensity, good things happen. And good things happened for him tonight."

Both teams did more wrestling than shooting during the first period - a time frame in which the Vikings (11-5, 0-1) led just 6-4 with five minutes elapsed. Valencia's cold shooting was more than matched by Saugus' ineffective play, but the quarter ended with the visitors up 10-8, thanks to eight points from senior Mark Watanabe, who collected a game-high 26 points on the night.

"I don't normally score like that," the senior said, "but we weren't putting it in, so I did the best I could to keep us in it. I knew I would do whatever I had to do in this game to help us win."

In the second, with the frantic Watanabe doing everything he could to choreograph the upset, the Cents (9-8, 0-1) took a 20-10 lead when Noel Mansour hit back-to-back treys with four minutes remaining.

It wasn't all Vikings misplay, though, as the Saugus defense pressured and clamped down tight, especially on Vikings sophomore Lonnie Jackson.

Leading by six, though, Saugus' Noel Mansour banged home another three with 31 seconds remaining and the Centurions walked off with a 23-17 halftime advantage.

Coming out in the third. The Vikes continued with their tentative shooting while the Saugus press continued to assault their marksmen.

Fortunately for the Vikings, the Centurions began missing some simple shots of their own.

The house was brought down momentarily when senior Olatokundo Oshodi slam dunked at 4:30 to cut Saugus' lead to 27-21, and Jackson laid one in to make it 29-23.

A Centurion defensive breakdown gave senior Tyler Gray an easy lay-in and the period ended with Valencia down by just a point 31-30.

Tied at 41, both clubs went into overdrive with a frenzy of scoring that kept the already buzzing crowd in a tizzy. Down 50-47, Jackson made the first of two free throws and missed the second, but Oshodi grabbed the board and kicked it back out to Jackson who airmailed another long trey to give Valencia a 51-50 lead
Watanabe drew a foul with 24 ticks left, hit the first free throw but missed the second leaving Jackson with a chance for more heroics.

Jackson's 12-foot jumper, however, was tipped and the game went into OT.

In the extra period an exhausted Jackson cramped up, collapsed on the court and was treated by trainers.

The teams traded baskets in the first overtime, but when Brennan Bernardino dropped in a layup with two minutes to play and Oshodi hit two free throws for a 56-53 Valencia lead, it appeared as if the game was over.

But Saugus' Joey Fredrick's three from the sidelines tied it up and sent it into the second OT.

With Jackson out on fouls, Purdy took over netting a three from beyond the key, while Watanabe nailed two more free shots to give the visitors a 63-60 lead. Purdy then grabbed a missed three and put it back in at 1:19 to make it 65-62.

Watanabe's layup with 42 seconds left pushed the Centurions' advantage to five.


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