As soon as the fourth-quarter three-point attempt left his hand, Anthony McIntyre knew it wasn’t going in.
So the Saugus High guard tracked the ball’s trajectory, timed his jump and picked the rebound out of the air.
In one motion he laid it back in and laid to rest questions about the Centurions’ ability to win at home, at least for one night, in Tuesday’s 62-51 victory over West Ranch.
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“We’d had enough,” said McIntyre of his team’s 0-3 mark at home in Foothill League play entering the night. “We wanted to get back in the mix for the league title.”
Mission accomplished. McIntyre’s airborne putback with two minutes left gave Saugus (15-8 overall, 4-3 in Foothill) a nine-point lead in a win that lifted the Centurions into a four-way tie for second place.
Saugus’ play at home has befuddled coach Bill Bedgood. But there was no confusing who wanted Tuesday’s game more. McIntyre’s highlight, and hustle plays like it, said it all.
“Oh man, when you see a play like that, you just know, ‘OK, I think we’ve got this one,’” Bedgood said. “… One guy beats five getting his own rebound. He just wasn’t going to be denied.”
West Ranch (12-10, 4-3) didn’t match the intensity.
“We didn’t have the right mindset going into the game,” said Cats junior Austin Galuppo.”(We weren’t) like, ‘We need to win.’ We were just, ‘Oh, if we lose and win Friday, we’re still in first place.’”
That mindset, Galuppo said, came in part from a four-game winning streak in league, a feat West Ranch hadn’t accomplished since 2014.
A five-game streak in league would have been the Cats’ first since 2013, the last year they won a league title.
Saugus said no.
The Cents pulled off the streak-stopper by slowing Galuppo. McIntyre and Zach Phipps took turns face-guarding the West Ranch standout, a risky move, Bedgood said, because it threatened to tire out the team’s best scorers.
The bet paid off. Galuppo missed all five of his shots in the first quarter, heated up in the second frame and finished with 13 points on 5-of-14 shooting.
Phipps answered with a game-high 24 points. McIntyre followed with 15 points, 13 of which came after halftime to help the Centurions erase a one-point deficit after two quarters.
Wildcat Chris Kodama hit 4-of-5 three-point attempts in the fourth quarter, but West Ranch never got closer than seven points late.