The Saugus boys basketball team hosted Canyon on Friday night in a Foothill League matchup featuring two teams that entered the contest 2-1 in league play.
After going into halftime tied at 30-30, the Centurions were able to pull away from the Cowboys to win 70-56.
Saugus applied a smothering full-court press in the third quarter that threw Canyon off its game, leading to an 11-point advantage for the Centurions entering the final quarter.
“They definitely came out with more intensity and we knew they were going to pick up the pressure because it was tied and I know they didn’t expect it to be tied,” Canyon head coach Sean DeLong said. “We wanted to make sure we handled the pressure a little bit better than we did. Maybe we were a little shell-shocked and we shouldn’t have been, but it’s a good lesson for us against good teams like them and give them all the credit in the world.”
Saugus used an inside-outside attack, getting the ball into junior big man Camron Nale who was able to draw double-teams and kick it out to Adrian McIntyre or Nathan Perez on the perimeter.
Head coach Alfredo Manzano said he wants his team to utilize mismatches, especially by dropping the ball into the post and working off of Nale.
“We want to go inside. We understand he gets the doubles and it’s going to make Adrian and Nate’s life a lot easier or it’s going to make Camron’s life a lot easier if they are passing off Nate’s side,” Manzano said. “They are not going to leave Nate so now it’s a one-on-one for Camron. So we try to expose those mismatches as much as possible.”
After starting off slow in the first quarter, McIntyre went off in the second quarter, at one point making four consecutive baskets for Saugus.
He finished the game with 27 points, seven rebounds, eight assists, four steals and a block.
“I think we came into this game underestimating them a little bit,” McIntyre said. “My thought process was if I pick it up then my team will pick it up so that’s what I had to do. I don’t know what changed, but I give them all the respect. They have a different mentality this year.”
Perez finished with 19 points including three 3-pointers and added two rebounds, one assist and one block.
Nale recorded 12 points, four rebounds, one steal and two blocks.
Willie Yomba led the way for Canyon with 13 points, eight rebounds and two assists, including a thunderous jam in the fourth quarter that brought the crowd off its feet.
“He’s a great player and a better human being,” DeLong said of Yomba. “When he attacks, it opens things for everybody else and makes us that much better of a team.”
Despite being down by double-digits late, Canyon continued to fight on every possession and did not let up.
It’s a testament to a program that has already notched two more league wins this season than it had in the past two years total.
“It’s all the boys. This is Canyon basketball and it’s tradition,” DeLong said. “It doesn’t matter what the score is, we are going to keep attacking and giving the best we can.”
“I have so much respect for them. I told coach DeLong before the game he is doing a phenomenal job with the program and his kids are playing hard,” Manzano said. “They are down by 20 points and they are still playing like it’s a tie game, so credit to them.”
Canyon’s Anthony Regalado returned from a concussion that had sidelined him the past couple of weeks and finished with 12 points and two rebounds off the bench.
Connor Cooper and Aaron Berko each scored eight points apiece for the Cowboys.
Canyon will face Renaissance Academy on Saturday before returning to league action on Tuesday against Valencia.
Saugus will take on Hart on Tuesday in a home tilt for the Cents.