The Saugus boys basketball team has had a busy summer. The Centurions have played in several tournaments like the War on the Floor in mid-June followed by the Section 7 Tournament in Arizona, not to mention they practice every weekday.
The Centurions just concluded another tournament on Friday, the San Fernando Valley Summer Shootout, coming away with a tournament championship under their belt.
Saugus defeated Crespi Carmelite High School 62-61 in a title game that featured a bizarre and dramatic final 30 seconds.
Saugus head coach Alfredo Manzano had been informed before the game that the scoreboard was malfunctioning and working on a delay due to one of the bulbs being out.
With the Centurions trailing by six points in the final 30 seconds, Cristian Manzano hit back-to-back 3-pointers to tie the game, but the scoreboard read that Saugus was trailing 60-59.
Manzano, who had forgotten about the delay in the scoreboard, told his team to foul immediately with under 10 seconds to go, putting Crespi at the free throw line with the game tied.
“It’s crazy, at the beginning of the game I was told that there was a glitch in the scoreboard, they are on a slight delay and there is a bulb out, so when Cristian hit that second three, I looked at that scoreboard and I saw 59, but we actually had 60,” Manzano said. “So I’m yelling, ‘foul foul foul’ and the other guys are looking at me like, ‘coach what are you doing?’ That was so bad, it was my fault.”
The Celts were in a one-and-one situation and hit the first free throw but missed the second to go up by a point.
Manzano called a timeout and drew up a play that required big man Camron Nale to receive a length-of-the-court pass. Nale, who hadn’t played in the fourth quarter, was inserted into the lineup and came up big when his team needed him the most.
“There’s a few seconds left, we draw up this play that we work on in practice. I had to sit Cam Nale the whole fourth quarter, Crespi was so athletic with their pick and roll, it was hard for Cam to recover, but when we ran the play I need him to catch the ball because it’s basically a home run pass,” Manzano said. “We lobbed the ball, they actually fouled him when he caught the ball and we were in a one-and-one situation.
“He’s been sitting on the bench the whole fourth quarter, he goes in there and knocks down both free throws to go up by one point. It was a crazy game.”
On its path to the title game, Saugus first had to go through pool play, defeating Chatsworth, Sylmar and St. Genevieve all by double-digits.
The Centurions then faced Campbell Hall in the semifinals, a tough team that plays in the Gold Coast League, which features the No. 1 ranked team in the country, Sierra Canyon.
Saugus defeated Campbell Hall without its starting point guard Stephen Tampus to make it to the championship game.
In the final, Saugus was led by a trio of upcoming sophomores: Nate Perez, Jared Seow and Manzano’s son, Cristian.
Davis White, another sophomore, has been playing well during the summer but missed the Summer Shootout after getting injured at the War on the Floor. Saugus’ star player Adrian McIntyre also sat the final two minutes against Crespi after rolling his ankle.
Short-handed, banged-up and even with a malfunctioning scoreboard, the Centurions were able to capture the victory.
“When we played Crespi we were down the whole game. Quite honestly, I don’t know how we pulled it off,” Manzano said.
Manzano credits the Section 7 Tournament in Arizona for helping bring the team together and preparing them for challenging competition at the Summer Shootout.
Saugus made it to the championship game at the Arizona tournament, where college coaches were on hand to watch some of the best high school basketball players on the West coast.
“We were fortunate enough to get approved to play at the Section 7 Tournament in Arizona, that was really good for us. I think that experience there really helped the guys,” he said. “We did a lot of bonding, the younger guys got to integrate with the senior guys and I think that helped us coming back, and we were able to pull off some of these victories against these top programs.”