After a slow start in the first quarter, Saugus Centurions girls’ basketball exploded.
Saugus held the visiting West Ranch Wildcats, who easily dominated the first quarter, without a field goal in the second quarter. The Centurions kept their foot on the gas throughout the contest en route to a 54-38 win over the Wildcats on Friday night.
Extra-effort plays were the keys to success for Saugus, which had multiple players snagging offensive rebounds, diving for loose balls and forcing turnovers.
Senior Destiny Onovo was the driving force in all three factors as the forward finished the game with 17 points, 16 rebounds and six steals.
“That’s who we are,” Onovo said on the team’s extra-effort plays. “We don’t want to lose. Our last couple games in a row, we’ve been giving our all and that’s what we wanted to show.”
Saugus (16-8, 6-3) took over the game in the second quarter, dominating the eight-minute stretch, 19-2.
Onovo had multiple steal-and-score plays while sophomore point guard EvaMarie Rios added a big 3-pointer that helped fuel a 10-0 run to start the quarter.
Rios also shined in the win and led all scorers with 20 points along with nine rebounds and two steals.
West Ranch seniors Alanna Topete and Aubrey Molina could do no wrong in the opening quarter.
Molina got off to a hot start with eight quick points while Topete did the rest with four rebounds and four assists that led to a 17-9 first-quarter lead. Molina led the Cats (13-10, 3-6) with 14 points and two steals.
West Ranch played solid defense to jump out to an early lead. For the Centurions, no game plan was changed and no adjustments were made. The formula was simple: play their game.
“We just didn’t have a great start,” Onovo said. “We didn’t have a great warmup so we weren’t as intense as we usually come out. We didn’t have to get told anything. We all knew what we needed to do, so we went out there and did it.”
Onovo racked up five of her six steals in the opening two quarters to help put Saugus up 28-19 at halftime.
West Ranch came out in the second half with more aggression and found better spacing. Aishwarya Sudan snagged an offensive rebound and scored the putback to register the team’s first field goal in over nine minutes of play.
Sudan finished with eight points and seven boards.
Saugus stayed aggressive throughout the contest and drove hard to the finish, even with all starters being subbed out with over three minutes to go.
“Our defense really runs off of intensity and how we’re bouncing off each other,” Rios said. “I feel like in the first quarter, we weren’t really communicating well. We came together after and we talked about it and we picked it up.”
The Wildcats lost to the Centurions earlier this season by just two points but too many turnovers cost West Ranch a chance at revenge.
Saugus has now won six straight games, even with an uncharacteristic slow start.
“I thought we were done with first quarters like that,” said Cents head coach Anthony Falasca. “These last five or six games, we’ve had great starts to the game and tonight felt like we were back 15 games ago. We just didn’t look like us. I think we came out a little stagnant and then we blew it open in the second quarter.”
The Centurions have a head of steam going into the final stretch of the regular season.
With Rios, Falasca’s floor general, snagging rebounds and hitting big shots, and Onovo starting to add 3-point shooting to her game, Saugus could roll far into the postseason.
“Every game, Eva does something where I go, ‘Wow, she has that, too,’” Falasca said. “She’s an incredible player and I can’t wait to get her in this offseason again and keep adding stuff because the ceiling is pretty high for her. … Destiny, we really know what you’re gonna get every time she gets in, except today she decided to hit a three. If she starts shooting threes to finish this season off, she will be unguardable. There’s more colleges coming to check her out and watch her and I haven’t even seen her do that yet.”
Both teams hit the road on Tuesday at 5 p.m. as Saugus heads to Hart, while West Ranch takes on Valencia.