It was something like a big-man relay race.
Richard Kawakami carried Golden Valley boys basketball early. Then, when foul trouble limited the 6-foot-5 forward to two and a half minutes in the second half, 6-7 Josh Jehnings snatched the baton and snagged two offensive rebounds in crunch time, scoring on both occasions, the second putback giving the Grizzlies a three-point lead with 18 seconds left in regulation.
Saugus’ Zach Phipps had a good look at a 3-pointer on Saugus’ final possession, but — like so many Centurion shots Tuesday night — the trey missed, and the Grizzlies hung on for a 46-43 road win.
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Golden Valley improved to 3-0 in league for the second straight year. This time, all three wins have come by three points or less.
“I told (Jehnings) at halftime, ‘If we win this game, it’s because you clutch up and you carry us through big spots in the second half,’” coach Larry Keys recalled after a hectic fourth quarter in front of a large, raucous crowd. “He did just that.”
Jehnings, who finished with five blocks, scored nine of his 11 points after halftime, his late rebound and score putting Saugus on its heels after the Centurions had throttled the Grizzlies for most of the fourth quarter.
Golden Valley (9-10 overall) entered the final frame up 10, but it had to lock down Saugus on two possessions in the final 10 seconds when the Cents could have tied the score.
Grizzly Milan Taylor (nine points) rebounded a Saugus miss with nine seconds left, and, after the Grizzlies missed the front end of a one and one, the Centurions had the ball out of bounds at midcourt with four seconds remaining.
The Cents (13-5, 2-1) worked it to Phipps (19 points) in the corner, but his shot went long. An offensive rebound and a blocked desperation attempt ended the game and sent the Grizzlies skipping off the court.
“‘Just keep your hands up. Don’t foul. Just stay clean,’” Jehnings recalled Keys saying. “He said, ‘We’ve got this one in the bag.’”
It looked that way early.
Kawakami scored 10 easy points in the first quarter to put the Grizzlies up 10.
Golden Valley led by 10 again late in the second quarter and gained that advantage a third time going to the fourth.
Then the Grizzlies didn’t score for four minutes, allowing Saugus to climb within one point twice. But Jehnings answered both times. And Golden Valley survived, again. The Grizzlies beat Canyon by three to open league, then escaped Valencia on Kawakami’s buzzer-beater on Friday.
Kawakami finished with 16 points, all in the first half. He picked up his fourth foul 47 seconds before halftime, sat out the entire third quarter and played limited minutes in the fourth.
Saugus’ Jeremy Glinoga scored 12 points.
“We just need to work on being more physical with teams,” Glinoga said. We can’t let our height be a disadvantage.”