By Ryan Menzie
Signal Sports Writer
With the West Ranch Wildcats on the verge of taking sole possession of first place in the Foothill League, the second-place Saugus Centurions (16-9-1, 9-2-1) and third place Canyon Cowboys (17-8, 8-4) faced off in a battle for second place.
The Centurions got the better of the Cowboys in a 72-63 victory on Friday, but not without determination and heart being shown out of the Cowboys despite going down big early in the game.
“Our guys never give up,” said Cowboys’ head coach Ali Monfared. “They always battle and give everything they have. Saugus is a great team that’s hard to guard. We started chipping away in the second half, but at the end of the day Saugus made more plays than us.”
The two teams ended the first quarter with the Centurions holding onto a tight two-point lead. By the end of the first half, Saugus had jumped out to a 42-25 lead.
Brandon Perez led the Centurions with 14 first-half points while Brody Baumgartner led the Cowboys with eight.
The Centurions would continue riding the wave and finish the third quarter up by 12, but the Cowboys would soon roar back.
Behind the efforts of Brandon Boldroff and Paul Sekyi Appiah, who combined for 10 total steals, the Cowboys would bring the Centurions’ lead down to five points with four minutes left to go in the fourth quarter. Jakob Regez would score all 11 of his points in the fourth quarter.
The Centurions’ resiliency would soon come back with the firepower they’d shown all game long behind Perez, who finished with a game-high 28 points and three rebounds.
“It was very emotional for a lot of the seniors knowing that this could be our last home game,” said Perez. “We wanted to come out with a win and play our hearts out because nothing is guaranteed or promised. We are currently on a six-game win streak so we want to keep the momentum going. We’re going to go into practice next week with a positive energy in hopes of making a deep playoff run.”
Davis White finished with a double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds. Taylor Phipps finished with 13 points and seven rebounds and Christian Manzano finished with eight points, five rebounds and six assists.
The Cowboys’ efforts came to a screeching halt, but the valiant effort is worth noting as they head into the post-season.
Baumgartner led his team with 15 points, four rebounds and five assists. Matt Heyne finished with 12 points and nine rebounds and Boldroff finished with seven points, four assists and eight steals.
“We were making mental mistakes so we had to go back to the fundamentals of taking care of the ball,” said Centurions’ head coach Alfredo Manzano. “Canyon is a great team that is well coached. We knew they were not going to give up. They have a senior heavy team so we knew we were in for a battle.”