It didn’t matter how many times he heard how young and inexperienced his team was, Saugus first-year coach Alfredo Manzano was adamant that he’d overcome the hurdles to win the school’s first Foothill League title in 35 years.
Experience had been the least of Hart’s worries this year as they touted one of the league’s deepest and senior-heavy rotations.
The Centurions’ youth finally caught up with them Friday night, as a trio of Hart seniors combined for 61 points and the Indians stormed to a 79-62 victory to win an outright Foothill League title.
Hart (20-7, 8-2 Foothill League) has won a share of the Foothill League title in each of the last five seasons. They also avenged an 86-74 loss to Saugus earlier in the season.
“We remembered what they did and we remembered how that felt,” said senior Luca Robinson, who led Hart with 24 points and 10 rebounds. “We’ve worked a whole year for this. We had to share the league title last year and it stung so bad we didn’t know what to do.
“Everything that we’ve done – the Crossfit sessions, extra weight lifting – has led us to this moment.”
Both teams traded baskets in the first quarter but Hart ended the opening frame with a 17-14 lead thanks to nine early points from Robinson.
The Indians led by more than 10 points (38-26) going into the half and the Cents never crept back to within single digits on the night. Hart even carried a 20-point lead with just over a minute to go in the fourth quarter.
“They beat us up tonight, no question about it,” said Saugus (20-7, 8-3) coach Alfredo Manzano. “They’re experienced and mature and the senior leadership took over.”
Whitten Dominguez didn’t play when the team’s first met this season due to injury. The Biola signee was second on Hart with 20 points.
“The first game we played them, we played our worst basketball ever,” Dominguez said. “We set a terrible impression for ourselves and the program and we wanted to fix that.
Tre Harrill, one of the many talented seniors referenced by Manzano, had 18 points and was a key facilitator per usual for the Indians.
He was also crucial in helping keep the team’s nerves and emotions in check with a raucous crowd on both sides.
“We’ve been sitting on this all week,” Harrill said. “ … We all got together and just told each other to relax and play our game and don’t let anybody change that.”
While the disappointment of nearly ending a 25-year drought likely won’t end soon for Saugus, the Cents will need a short memory as they’ll find out their seed for the Division 2A tournament Sunday.
Adrian McIntyre led Saugus with 17 points and Dylan Spring was the only other player to score in double figures with 10 points.
“There’s still basketball to play and it starts today,” Manzano said.