Rolling Hills High School finally dug a hole for itself that it couldn't climb out of.
The No. 1-ranked Titans, who have made a habit of pulling off improbable comebacks, ran out of miracles Saturday at the Sports Arena as Saugus completed a run of improbable upsets with a 66-53 win in the Southern Section 3-A boys' championship game.
After falling behind by nine in the first half, Rolling Hills did its best to rally, but it was powerless to stop a Centurion team that was playing an almost-perfect game.
Saugus (22-9), which is only the second wild-card team to win a Southern Section title, beat the Rolling Hills' press almost every time down the court, resulting in numerous fast breaks. Of Saugus' 27 field goals, 19 were from four feet or less, including a host of layups on back-door plays. Saugus basically did what it wanted offensively.
"We watched 'em play against Corona del Mar," Saugus Coach John Clark said. "We saw that they overplay the lane, (so) we worked on the back door (in practice)."
"They executed so well," Rolling Hills Coach Cliff Warren said. "Their offense was so good that they made our defense look bad. (They had) just a ton of easy shots."
Rolling Hills started well, as Doug Gehr scored six of its first eight points, and took an 8-4 first-quarter lead. But things started to unravel for the Titans when defensive specialist Mike Peretti, who was guarding Saugus' top player, Rusty Morse, picked up three quick fouls within a minute in the first quarter.
With Peretti out, Morse scored 8 of his 12 first-half points as Saugus took a 34-25 halftime lead. All of Morse's first-half points came on shots from within two feet of the basket. Gehr had 14 points to keep Rolling Hills somewhat close.
But in the third quarter, the Saugus' zone shut out Gehr, while Morse was scoring 10 points, all from close range, including the last eight points of the quarter to give Saugus a 47-36 lead.
In the fourth quarter, Rolling Hills scored two quick baskets to cut the lead to 47-40 and appeared on the verge of making a run. But Morse came back with a fast break layup to make it 49-40.
Later, Morse added a six-footer to make it 53-42, and he clinched the win with a three-point play that made it 59-46 with 2:29 to play. Morse finished the day with 29 points (on 14-of-20 shooting) and 12 rebounds.
"They just simply outplayed us in every area," Warren said. "They broke any press we ran. They never let us get a run (of points). They just were much better prepared."
Rolling Hills, No. 1 in the 3-A since the preseason, finished at 26-4. Gehr led the Titans with 18 points.