Saugus' Taylor Bogdanski (right) shoots a floater past Ava Dawley's (left) outstretched hand. (Item Photo by Katie Morrison)

Sachems down Medford, pull above. 500

SAUGUS -- Coming off a tough loss to Triton Monday night, the Saugus girls basketball team was looking to get back on the right track against Medford Tuesday.

Despite a couple of cold streaks offensively, Saugus' strong defense and fluid ball movement prevailed as the Sachems topped the Mustangs, 52-36, Tuesday evening at Saugus High.

Alessia Salzillo and Taylor Bogdanski led the way with 13 points apiece. Rachel Nazzaro (8 points) and Molly Granara (7 points) added timely buckets.

"We just wanted to focus on our effort tonight," Saugus coach Mark Schruender said. "And maintaining discipline on defense. (Holding Medford scoreless in) the second quarter was a sign of good things. We still have to clean some things up and get better, but that's every team. Overall I liked what we saw tonight."

Bogdanski wasted no time getting her team on the board, sinking a three on the first possession of the game. Salzillo made plays happen early on, faking out a defender on her way to the basket for a layup in transition to give Saugus a 7-2 lead. Salzillo ended the quarter with a nifty assist, finding Kiley Ronan with a bounce pass in transition. Ronan's basket made it 16-12 Saugus at the end of the first quarter.

The next four minutes were ugly for both sides. The good news for the Sachems was that the bench held Medford scoreless for the first 3 1/2 minutes of the second quarter. The bad news was that Saugus also couldn’t find the hoop. It wasn’t until Nazzaro broke almost four minutes of scoreless action with 4:07 to play that the Sachems added to their lead.

The basket from Nazzaro opened the floodgates, as the Sachems embarked on a 13-0 run to close out the half with a 29-12 lead. Salzillo was a thorn in the side of the Mustangs all night, extending offensive opportunities with timely boards and creating turnovers with her speed and anticipation. Salzillo put the exclamation point on the impressive half with a steal and layup with two seconds left.

“Defense is sometimes our best offense, and she's the catalyst for that defense," Schruender said. "We like to say we're going to paint the floor hot pink if you had hot pink on your shoes, and she did that."

Medford broke its scoring drought on a free throw early in the third, and momentum swung back to the Mustangs. This time when the Sachems hit a cold streak in the third, Medford took advantage and cut the deficit to as few as seven midway through the quarter. Nazzaro again broke the scoreless streak about three minutes into the quarter. But Medford had found its rhythm, as Ava Dawley hit a layup, was fouled, and nailed the free throw to make it 32-22 and force Saugus to take a time out.

The Sachems weren't willing to let this one get out of hand, though. Shaylin Groark's jumper helped stop the bleeding, and Bogdanski swished two timely treys over the final minute -- one with about three seconds left in the third -- to bump the lead back to 15 points, 40-25.

"Taylor's so good. As a coaching staff we're tough on her because we see so much potential," Schruender said. "She's a super kid, so coachable, and that's what we expect out of her."

Saugus kept Medford at arm's length in the fourth, slowing down the Mustangs' attack to seal the win.

At 7-6, a tournament berth is well within reach for the Sachems as they're three wins away from clinching a bid in states. But Schruender says he isn't looking beyond today's practice. Saugus will look to keep pushing toward the playoffs against Somerville Friday.

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