Valencia boys hoops holds off Saugus


Valencia High boys basketball won Friday’s back-and-forth thriller at the buzzer — just not the final one.

Saugus had summoned a surge near the end of the third quarter, taking the lead and the momentum.

But CJ Finley nailed a 3-pointer from the corner as the clock ran out.

“Biggest shot of the game,” said Valencia coach Chad Phillips.

The three tied the score and served as a preview of the poise Valencia showed in the game’s final two minutes, when it legged out a 62-58 road win with free throws and timely defensive stops.

“I knew we needed something good going our way,” Finley, who finished with a team-high 12 points, said of the three. “When I let it go, it felt good.”

Not as good as Valencia (11-9 overall) moving to 3-1 in the Foothill League one week after wasting a 10-point lead going to the fourth quarter against Golden Valley.

The Vikings weren’t about to watch a replay.

Two Finley free throws gave Valencia a 57-56 lead with 1:22 left. From there, the highlights went like this: two Saugus misses from the charity stripe, a crucial block by Viking Jayden Trower, five more Viking free throws and two ill-advised Saugus shots.

The Cents fell to 13-6 overall and 2-2 in league.

“The past couple games everyone was saying we can’t finish,” Finley said, “and we showed them. This is definitely a grow-up game.”

After last season, the Vikings graduated two of the league’s best players, in Chibuzo Ikonte and Isaac Davis. Big plays have come more by committee this season. And Friday was no different.

Four Vikings finished in double figures scoring, highlighted by Dexter Akanno, who scored seven of his 11 points in the fourth quarter while playing with four fouls.

Ben Grant came off the bench to score 11. Finley finished with 12, and Trower had 10.

Anthony McIntyre led Saugus with 17 points. His transition layup late in the third quarter capped a 9-0 run that gave the Cents a 40-36 lead. But

Valencia didn’t flinch. Finley’s three made Saugus squirm.

After winning two road games to open league, the Centurions have now dropped back-to-back games at home.

“I think at home our guys try to do too much,” said Saugus coach Bill Bedgood. “Individually, they get off script. They sometimes try to make plays when there aren’t plays to be made.”

Valencia mixed man-to-man and zone defenses to try and slow down Saugus standout Zach Phipps. The senior forward finished with eight points, his lowest output in league.

McIntyre, oppositely, bounced back after he didn’t score Tuesday in a loss to Golden Valley.

His younger brother, Adrian, hit several key shots Friday, too, and finished with 16 points.

Saugus’ next Foothill League game is at Canyon on Tuesday. Valencia will travel to Hart, which upset previously unbeaten Golden Valley on Friday.

Three of Valencia’s four Foothill games have been decided by four points or less.

Saugus has dropped its last two league games by a total of seven points.

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