Pepic powers Patriots through Saugus in NEC clash

Revere's Valentina Pepic scored 23 points in Tuesday's win. (Item File Photo)

SAUGUS — It was a back-and-forth battle for much of the first half, but the Revere girls basketball team was able to pull away in the second half to take down Saugus, 61-51, in a Northeastern Conference game at Saugus High on Tuesday evening. The night belonged to Revere’s Valentina Pepic, who had a massive double-double with 23 points and 13 rebounds.

“I think we were kind of up and down in this one, Saugus did a good job of pressuring us all night,” said Revere coach Lianne O’Hara. “We made a lot of bad passes, but we were able to overcome it and hit enough shots to win.”

In addition to Pepic’s big night, Revere got great performances from Tatianna Iacoviello (13 points, two rebounds, four assists), Erica Cheever (10 points, three rebounds) and Caroline Stasio (four points, 11 rebounds). Aya Harper added six points and four rebounds off the bench.

Eleven different players scored for Saugus, led by Alessia Salzillo’s 11 points and seven rebounds. Taylor Bogdanski had seven points and 10 rebounds, Marissa Stockwell had seven points and three rebounds and Allie Kotkowski had five points and two rebounds.

“I thought our effort was great, everyone really got up for this one,” said Saugus coach Mark Schruender. “That effort kept us in it for a while, but in the end we made too many coaching mistakes and missed a lot of shots, and you can’t beat a really good team like Revere when you do that.”

It was a true defensive battle early on, with Saugus forcing several turnovers with a full-court press to start. But Revere had some great defense of its own up its sleeve, and the Patriots were able to pull away and take an 18-9 lead into the start of the second quarter.

But 3-point shooting kept the Sachems in the game. Salzillo, Bogdanski and Jillian Ricupero all hit big 3-pointers to keep the game close, and combined with good defense, Saugus was able to cut the deficit to just two points at halftime, with Revere holding a slim 27-25 lead.

But to start the second half, Revere went on a big 10-0 run that really changed the direction of the game for both teams. The Patriots never surrendered the lead from that point, stretching it to as many as 16 points by the fourth quarter.

“That run really got everyone feeling confident to start the second half,” O’Hara said. “Everyone did a great job of working together and moving the ball around, and we got much better looks at the basket in the second half, which helped us pull away.”

Saugus, on the other hand, went on small runs to make it close throughout the final two quarters, but the Sachems simply couldn’t make enough defensive stops to climb back in it. It was tough for them to match up with Pepic in the paint, as she tallied 13 points and six rebounds in the second half alone.

“She’s really a great player,” Schruender said of Pepic. “It got to a point where they were just feeding her and she was doing it all for them. They’ve got a lot of really good players on that team.”

The Patriots (6-2) have another tough test coming up on Friday with a matchup against Lynn Classical.

Saugus (5-3) also has a tough test in its next game, as the Sachems visit Danvers on Thursday.

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