By Justin Vigil-Zuniga
Signal Sports Writer
The Saugus Centurions fell to the Cajon Cowboys Tuesday in a CIF Division 2AA second-round matchup at Saugus.
Cajon got scoring everywhere, but was led by senior Maika Easu with 16 points.
Saugus’ seniors were sensational and left it all on the court in what would be their Saugus basketball finale. Brandon Perez led all scorers with 17 points and a pair of assists. Cristian Manzano finished right behind Perez with 16 points and four rebounds. Davis White had 13 points.
“Knowing this was the last home game,” said Perez, “it was an amazing experience being able to play with all these guys one last time.”
Perez is committed to play next season at Western Oregon University.
Cajon was ready defensively and able to score early off Saugus turnovers.
Saugus head coach Alfredo Manzano called a quick timeout barely a minute into the game and the screws were instantly tightened.
“[It’s] a special group of seniors,” said Alfredo Manzano. “They have a special place in my heart. All I can say is how proud I am of them.”
Neither team could pull away from their counterpart. Cajon was scoring on tough looks from the gritty Centurion defense. The Saugus offense had less trouble and was managing open looks and great drives.
The teams went into the halftime break tied 35-35.
Cajon turned the ball over on the first play of the second half and Saugus was quick to make them pay for nearly everything.
After an unforced turnover, the Centurions saw themselves down five with a minute to go in the game. Perez would then hit a 10-foot jumper to give Saugus life.
Saugus had played a clean second half, but had to foul, forcing them to quickly foul on three consecutive Cajon inbound plays.
After finally getting Cajon to the free throw line, Easu managed to get the rebound, nearly sealing it for the Cowboys.
Saugus would get another chance but another unforced turnover in the final seconds sealed the deal.
Both teams played solid team basketball as both squads had three players in double digits.
Cajon has now won 13 consecutive games, most of which were league games won on their way to a perfect Citrus Belt league record and championship. The Cowboys will now move on to face Foothill.
Saugus’ red-hot win streak ends at seven games in a row, which includes the program’s first playoff win in five years.
This was an unexpected season and playoff push by a team that lost its leading scorer, Nathan Perez, earlier in the season due to injury.
“As a team we had a lot of learning gaps and bumps in the road that we had to get through,” said Brandon Perez. “We were able to make a huge jump from the beginning of the season until now. I’m so proud of these guys and what we’ve accomplished.”