A first-year head coach and a rotation dominated by sophomores left Saugus on the outside looking in toward a Foothill League title by most preseason projections.
The Centurions dropped two of their first three games but have since rattled off four straight wins, including a 80-57 victory Tuesday at West Ranch. They find themselves in a tie with Hart atop the league standings at 5-2.
Golden Valley is the only Foothill League team the Cents have lost to this year and they’ll get a chance to right the home loss Friday.
Saugus possess arguably the best scorer in the league in sophomore Adrian McIntyre, who’s scored 40-plus points on two occasions this year. He had 46 points in the Cents’ win over West Ranch back on Jan. 12 and 25 points Tuesday.
To complement McIntyre, Saugus has a pair of seniors in Luke Bodeau and Dylan Spring, who have been the steadying forces behind the four-game winning streak.
Spring is one of the league’s most talented hustle players, frequently diving for loose balls and grabbing offensive rebounds. He had 18 points Tuesday against West Ranch and Bodeau had 24 points. Bodeau had 22 points to lead Saugus in its win over Valencia last Friday.
In their win 86-74 win over Hart on Jan. 23, Saugus got 17 points from sophomore guard Tyler Mehl and 16 points from sophomore center Cameron Nale.
Tyler Mehl (17 pts) breaks down his hot shooting night, which included five 3s — four coming in the first half. pic.twitter.com/BAw3WOtpDR
— Ryan Posner (@ryanposner_) January 24, 2018
Heritage Christian sophomore transfer Stephen Tampus, who has the ability to hit from behind the arc and create his own look, is another young player to keep an eye on.
What Saugus lacks in household names around the league, it makes up for with an exciting blend of sophomore talent and just enough senior leadership.
It would no longer be a shock to see Saugus take the league title. But they still have a huge hurdle overcome once again in Hart, with a home matchup against the Indians on Feb. 9 to close out the regular season.
Dominguez and Akanno shine
Outside of the craziness toward the end of Hart’s win over Valencia on Tuesday, last year’s co-Foothill League Players of the Year were at the top of their game.
Dexter Akanno led Valencia with 25 points, including hitting a free throw to send the game into overtime. Dominguez led Hart with 20 points and eight rebounds, including a pair of free throws that also set up the overtime.
“Me and Dexter started playing with each other back in sixth grade, so we know each other, and I have respect for him,” Dominguez said after Tuesday’s win. “It’s great to go up against someone and have that type of challenge.”
Dominguez, who’s missed most of this season due to various injuries, is signed to play at Biola. Akanno, who’s also missed time this year with several ailments, was garnering interest from Wisconsin, Virginia and Georgetown over the summer and had UC Irvine in attendance to watch Hart beat Valencia on Jan. 12.
Tuesday likely marked the final prep meeting between the two, who despite their injury struggles, should once again at least be in the running for the league’s player of the year.
SCCS sweats out league win
It hasn’t been often this season that Santa Clarita Christian has found itself in a close Heritage League game.
In fact, the Cardinals had won their first seven league games by at least 34 points heading into Tuesday night against Valley Torah.
But the Cardinals were up for the task, led by an 18-point, performance from senior Jordan Starr in a 69-60 win over Valley Torah. SCCS still has one matchup remaining against Valley Torah, which will come on Feb. 5 at The Master’s University to close out the regular season.
Then it will be off to the postseason, where SCCS should be considered a favorite to win the CIF-Southern Section Division 5AAA final.