Saugus boys basketball gave the Santa Clarita Valley the most exciting game to kickoff League play in early January and they capped off the season with another thriller.
This time, the Centurions came out victorious. They beat Hart in a 97-95 overtime heart-stopper at Saugus High School on Friday. Everybody in the gym was an anxiety-ridden mess on the edge of its seat.
“This win was really big,” said Saugus senior Adrian McIntyre. “It was Senior Night, my last league game ever. We have 10 seniors, so we came out knowing we couldn’t lose this game for our pride and for playoff seeding, as well.”
The win awards Saugus (19-8 overall, 7-3 Foothill League) second place in the Foothill League and pushes the Indians back to third. It’s an incredible thing for the Centurions considering where they were in early January, starting League play with back-to-back heartbreaking losses to Valencia and West Ranch.
“That’s one thing I addressed today at the end of the game,” said Saugus head coach Alfredo Manzano. “When we were 0-2 I really challenged them and kept them positive and said, ‘we’re better than that.’ We used that momentum to propel us forward and going into playoffs.”
Despite the loss, Hart senior Ty Penberthy (21 points) had the play of the game. With only 22 seconds left in regulation, he stepped up to the free-throw line and knocked down both shots to tie the game.
“It felt good,” Penberthy said. “With 20 seconds left, you’ve got to hit your free throws. Coming into today I was just trying to get the win.”
Penberthy’s clutch moment forced the game into overtime and gave the Indians (16-12, 6-4) a shot at knocking off the Centurions at home. However, they couldn’t hang with Saugus for an extra quarter and simple mistakes lead to their demise.
Hart’s head coach Tom Kelly was confident that Penberthy would be able to make a play when his team needed him most.
“We knew he was going to make both,” Kelly said. “He just stepped up and knocked them down. That’s what seniors do.”
Hart freshman Brady Dunlap was another key piece to the Indians giving the Centurions a run for their money. He scored 24 points and landed five 3-pointers. Other key players for Hart were junior Dillon Barrientos (24 points, four rebounds) and junior Isaac Deedon (10 points, five assists, two steals).
“I think it’s just a steady progress,” Dunlap said. “As the year has gone on, I’ve just improved and been more aggressive. When I hit a couple shots, that’s when I start to get super aggressive and confident. It just goes on from there.”
McIntyre had a monster performance in his final Foothill League game. He recorded a double-double with 34 points 14 rebounds, six assists and two steals.
“We knew that Hart was going to do different things to try and stop me this time,” McIntyre said. “I kind of just muscled up and beat them in a mental aspect of the game. I feel like that really pushed me to be able to finish that game.”
He was supported by sophomore Nate Perez. Perez narrowly missed a double-double of his own. He had 27 points, eight rebounds and four assists.
“I thought we did pretty good,” Perez said. “We brought the energy. In the second half, we came out and just did what we had to do.”
The game was a nonstop thrill ride. The largest lead of the game came at the end of the third quarter when the Centurions extended their lead to 58-48. That lead did not last long as the Indians refused to back down and were determined to have their revenge.
“We just came out here today and showed that we belong to be in the same gym as them,” Penberthy said. “It’s just effort, really. First time we played them, we just didn’t play. We learned our lesson with that.”
Hart’s relentlessness got the entire crowd all-in on the game. Penberthy was the fuel and McIntyre was the match that ignited the crowd into a frenzy. The Centurion faithful rocketed to their feet on multiple occasions after McIntyre showed his athleticism with two dunks.
“They were our sixth man today,” Manzano said. “We have the best crowd. I haven’t been around any crowd like this. They were loud and they were infusing a lot of energy.”
With the regular season over, it’s time to look toward the playoffs. Playoff pairings will be released on Sunday and both teams will be able to get back into the gym and back to work.
“It gives us the confidence that we need to get into this 2AA playoff bracket that’s just a monster,” Manzano said. “The mindset is to continue to build on what we’re doing. Take this positive momentum and I told them, ‘Playoffs, anybody can have a bad night, just don’t let it be us.’”