Coming out playing hard-spirited defense against Westchester, Saugus boys basketball had its hands full in the Trevor Ariza Classic Tournament at Westchester on Thursday.
Scoring the first basket of the game, freshman Nathan Perez looked like he was well on his way to another efficient night of scoring.
Answering with a 6-0 run of its own creating easy buckets on turnovers, Westchester took control of the lead and didn’t look back coming away with a 62-38 win over Saugus.
“As a team, we talked about the way that Westchester gets out there and gets into the passing lanes and applies a lot of ball pressure,” said Saugus head coach Alfredo Manzano. “We came into this game with two things: We have to protect the basketball and we have to get back on defense and take away all the transition breaks.”
Holding Westchester to 16 points in the first quarter, after scoring 12 of their own, Saugus (2-2) didn’t look bothered by the Comets’ size and physicality.
Changing tactics, Westchester began the second quarter in a full-court press, disrupting the Centurions offense and rhythm and went on a 9-4 run, pushing the lead to 25-16.
With Perez and Adrian McIntyre being blanketed by Comets defenders, Manzano opted to bring in Kyle Santiago and Justin Espinoza off the bench.
McIntyre ended with 14 points and six rebounds. Perez finished with seven points.
Getting in the passing lanes and diving for rebounds the two sparked a Saugus run to cut into the deficit.
“Both of those guys are going to be relied on to give us some good minutes,” Manzano said. “Obviously, they were putting a lot of pressure on Adrian and Nate but hey, we are going to learn from this. We are not trying to play any teams that are going to be blowouts so we can challenge our guys so we are ready when it comes to league play.”
Outscoring Saugus 23-11 in the second quarter, Westchester (2-0) held a 39-23 lead heading into the half.
Beginning the second half scoring on three consecutive trips down the court, Perez and Stephen Tampus each hit a 3-pointer and McIntyre drove in the lane sinking a floater, helping Saugus erase the double-digit deficit to 40-31.
“Stephen did great for us tonight,” Manzano said. “He is going to have to be able to use that speed of his and create a little more.”
Tampus finished the night with nine points on three 3-pointers.
But just like every other Saugus scoring flurry, Westchester answered with one of their own to balloon the nine-point lead to 20 at the end of the third quarter, eventually winning by 24 points.
Saugus continues tournament play today.
“Keep your heads up, we have another dogfight tomorrow,” Manzano said of his post-game message. “It’s short-term memory. We play the loser of either Santa Monica or Washington Prep both teams are really good and really tested. The matchups don’t ever favor us when we play teams like that, but we just have to be smart.”