Saugus boys basketball is getting back on track, winning their second game since two straight losses to open Foothill League play.
“It’s encouraging,” Saugus head coach Alfredo Manzano said. “After the first two losses, the guys were pretty down. The old cliché, we’ve just got to take one game at a time.”
The Centurions beat Canyon 63-49 at Canyon High School Tuesday night. A slow-starting game got increasingly more aggressive as each quarter passed. With the way the first quarter went, it was a surprise to see how high either team scored.
The Cowboys (11-11 overall, 1-3 league), who were without head coach Sean DeLong on Tuesday, took it to the Centurions early to give the illusion that they were going to give Saugus a hard time throughout the game. However, Adrian McIntyre and Nate Perez put together a run that handed the Centurions (14-7, 2-2) the lead as the quarter ended 12-11.
“A little sloppy,” said Manzano. “I think once the ball started moving a little better on offense and weren’t so ball-screen dominant – and that’s what we’ve been preaching since before the season started, the balls got to move a lot better. Now you see Nate driving those open gaps. (We’re) too stagnant when the ball’s not moving.”
The Canyon defense was able to keep McIntyre quiet and forced him to move the ball around rather than be the scoring machine that he is. It held him to only 11 points as a player that usually averages 20 or more.
“We did make it tough on him and that was the game plan, to make it as tough as possible,” said Canyon assistant coach Ali Monfared. “I thought our boys played extremely hard and made it tough for them on defense.”
As a result, Perez ran freely around the Cowboy defense to become the game’s leading scorer. He scored 20 points with an impressive 12 of them coming in the fourth quarter.
“My team was finding me in the fourth quarter,” Perez said. “I just saw driving to the basket was open, so I just kept attacking the basket.”
On the other side of the court, the Cowboys seemed lost. Saugus’s defense was able to throw Canyon’s attack off-balance. This forced Canyon to take shots from the outside, rather than its preferred approach of aggressively driving the paint.
“We always want to protect the paint on those drives,” Manzano said. “We felt like we didn’t switch as much the second half in the second half, so we stayed more solid and we were able to contest.”
The Cowboys switched their offense to an outside attack. They struggled their too, getting open looks but having trouble getting shots to land.
“Basketball is a game where shots are made and shots are missed,” Monfared said. “I think the more confidence we gain, the more the shots will fall. When guys are open you encourage them to shoot the ball. That’s what they’re going to keep doing. As we move forward in league, we’re going to have more success with that.”
Monfared acted as head coach Friday night in place of an absent DeLong.
In the second half, Canyon’s offense was able to break through Saugus’s defense and attack the basket. Attempts by the Centurions to stay strong on the inside lead to the Cowboys taking shots from the free-throw line early and often.
The constant attack led to constant attempts to the free-throw line and resulted in the Centurions racking up their foul count early in the second half.
“I don’t think we did anything different other than sag more in the second half and we were getting calls,” Manzano said.
Saugus was able to stay out of serious foul trouble for the rest of the game.
The fourth quarter was the ‘Perez Show.’ He scored the first eight points for Saugus in the first three minutes of the final quarter. Canyon knocked down half of that in the same amount of time. Not only did Perez score a lot, but he was able to dish the ball well too.
“It’s good to have everyone back, like all of our injuries and we’re all back together,” Perez said. “We were able to move the ball around and everyone was getting more breaks. The ball is moving a lot better now.”
Foothill League basketball will resume Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. Canyon will look to bounce back against a West Ranch team that started hot since the start of league play. The game will take place at West Ranch.
Saugus will continue its redemption tour against Hart who took lone possession of second place in the Foothill League Friday night. The game will be in Newhall at Hart High School.