Tuesday night marked the last home game for the Canyon boys basketball team this season and head coach Sean DeLong honored his five seniors by inserting them into the starting lineup.
The five elder statesmen displayed passion and energy, which set the tone early for the rest of the Cowboys as they battled Saugus throughout the contest, though it wasn’t enough, falling 76-65 to the Centurions.
“It was awesome for them. We preach about changing the culture around here, playing Canyon basketball, and the seniors have really bought into it this year,” DeLong said. “They deserved to be out there as much as they were and to lead us. I thought they led the tempo, led our energy and gave us a chance to have a good fight.”
Saugus was able to match Canyon’s energy with suffocating defense and a full-court press that gave the Cowboys fits.
The Cents forced the Cowboys into several turnovers off of inbounds plays and hustled back on defense whenever their press was broken.
Saugus senior Alex Phan was a disruptor, drawing a charge on Canyon early and hustling after loose balls.
Freshman Jared Seow came off the bench and led the second unit by hitting key shots, making free throws and finding his teammates for open shots.
Phan finished with four points, three rebounds and two steals and Seow added 11 points, three rebounds, two assists and a steal.
“Jared is a freshman; we know what he’s capable of. As the season started progressing you’ve been able to see he’s a lot more comfortable. He’s handling the ball well, he’s making good shots, big shots when we need them,” Saugus head coach Alfredo Manzano said. “Alex Phan is defense. We talked about it at halftime. I said, ‘Play to your strengths, what is your role?’ Those two guys, in particular, played their roles to a tee.”
Freshman Nathan Perez led Saugus in scoring, logging 23 points while shooting 3-of-7 from downtown and 4-for-4 from the charity stripe. He added five rebounds, one assist and one steal.
Junior Adrian McIntyre recorded a double-double, finishing with 21 points, 12 rebounds, six assists, five steals and a block.
“I think the last couple of games he’s been focused on defense. When you’re a great player the ball finds you and he just happens to be at the right place at the right time,” Manzano said of McIntyre.
“His role has been bigger this year. His rebounds are way up from last year. He’s had double-digit rebounds 75 percent of the time this year. His points in the paint are up, five steals, he’s doing a little bit of everything for us. Kudos to him because he’s taken on a bigger role and he’s embraced it.”
The Cowboys kept themselves in the game with hustle plays and tenacious defense, with senior Cole Sy jumping onto the scorer’s table in the second quarter to save a ball that led to senior Aaron Berko getting fouled and making two free throws.
However, Canyon gave up 13 offensive rebounds and the Centurions were able to take advantage by scoring a handful of second-chance points.
Senior Willie Yomba led Canyon with 22 points, seven rebounds, one assist, five steals and a block.
Berko added 11 points, going 6-for-6 from the free throw line and also grabbed three boards and dished out an assist. Sy finished with 11 points, three rebounds, one assist and one steal.
“Willie’s been a great leader. The guys love playing for him. You can always tell how good a player is by what he does with the players around him and they all want to play harder for him,” DeLong said. “Troy Bietsch doesn’t get enough recognition, he does all the dirty work, he’s always preaching as our senior captain. Ryan Sloan has battled all year. Cole has battled and got a chance to show it tonight.
“Aaron Berko, another big game. He does everything that nobody else sees, but he fills the stats with his effort and his hard work. The seniors, I’m proud of them.”
Saugus moves to 16-8 overall and 6-3 in the Foothill League with a road matchup against Hart on Friday to close out the season.
“Hart is a very scrappy team. They utilize that full court press and put a lot of pressure the whole game. We have to be poised, we have to be composed, be disciplined, break that press,” Manzano said. “I’m still waiting for us to have a breakout game. I don’t think we’ve put together four quarters like I know our team is capable of, so hopefully we could start at Hart.”
Canyon is now 10-17 overall and 3-6 in league, with a road contest against Valencia on Friday, a team that remains undefeated in league.
“They’re a great team, their record speaks to that,” DeLong said about facing Valencia. “We have a lot of pride here. We’re not going to lay down.”
Valencia 79, Golden Valley 50
The Vikings are one win away from an undefeated league record and with their victory on Tuesday night.
Junior Jake Hlywiak led Valencia with 17 points. Senior Jayden Trower added 13 points and senior point guard Richard Kawakami added 11 points and eight assists.
Valencia will face Canyon at home to close out the season.
Golden Valley will face West Ranch at home to conclude its season.