SAUGUS– It’s been a tough start to the season for the Saugus boys basketball team. The Sachems (0-7) remained winless after Tuesday night’s 63-54 loss to Peabody at John W. Towers Gymnasium. But that doesn’t mean Saugus didn’t put forth an effort worth feeling proud about.
“The effort was unbelievable,” Sachems coach Mark Bertrand said. “We lost a tough one in Revere (last Friday). We had two really solid practices Sunday and Monday. We were ready for this. I’m really happy with the effort. I’m a little disappointed with the start and the finish. We have to play 32 minutes.”
To Peabody’s credit, the Tanners started and finished the game on high notes. Saugus took its first lead of the night, 44-43, early in the fourth quarter after trailing by 14 at halftime. Peabody buckled down to finish the game on a 20-10 run.
“We took care of the basketball and played solid defense in the first half,” Tanners coach Thad Broughton said. “Then Saugus got hot in the second half and hit some big shots. We were very fortunate to get out of here with a win.”
Mason Nickolas led all scorers with 22 points. Christian Correia and Joe Lusso also reached double-figures with 17 and 13 points, respectively.
Peabody was led by 16 points apiece from Kyle Morfis and Mike Tansey. Morfis netted five 3-pointers, four in the first half. Chris Canela finished with 14 points and Joangel Lugo scored 11.
“Kyle stepped up and hit some big three’s when we needed them,” Broughton said. “We’re a team that’s a work in progress. We’re just not consistent yet. We have to find that consistency. We have to find it from a lot of guys that are playing varsity for the first time. Guys like Kyle and Joangel really stepped up for us.”
Lugo netted a 3-pointer to start the game. Peabody followed with another 3-pointer from Morfis and a free throw from Michael Tansey to claim a 7-0 lead. Saugus struggled to find its offense against Peabody’s press defense in the early going.
Nicholas Iraelson put the Sachems on the board with a second-chance lay-in. Canela took over for the rest of the quarter, powering a 7-0 Tanners run with a 3-pointer and back to back lay-ups. Peabody led 19-5 at the end of the first quarter.
In an evenly-played second quarter, Saugus crawled back in. Consecutive layups from Correia made it a single-digit deficit at 24-16. A pair of 3-pointers from Morfis got the Tanners back on track as the first half closed. Peabody carried a 34-20 lead at halftime.
Again, Saugus showed no quit.
A 19-6 Sachems run, capped by a nifty move to the basket from Correia, whittled Peabody’s lead to a point at 40-39. Lugo swished a 3-pointer but Lusso closed the quarter with a floater. Saugus trailed 43-41 heading into the final period.
“We came up with a good plan on our press-breaker,” Bertrand said. “We mixed up our defenses pretty well. We did a nice job mixing up our defense. We got Mason going, he came out of his shell a little bit. He was letting it fly. We got him involved because we knew Peabody was isolating on Christian. Joey did a good job getting to the basket.
“I think our defense has improved tremendously,” Bertrand added. “We’re still improving offensively. The defensive effort Michael Bertrand and Jake Morgante brought tonight was great. I thought they did a very good job. Our defense, from where it was when we opened the season against Everett, has really improved.”
It was back and forth the rest of the way. Lusso swished a three to give Saugus a 44-43 lead- its first lead of the night. Peabody built a 56-51 advantage going into the final minute. Lugo’s freebies with 40 seconds remaining made it a 58-51 game, putting it out Saugus’ reach.
“Thad does a great job in Peabody,” Bertrand said. “They put an outstanding game plan together. I have nothing but great things to say about him.”
Peabody (5-2) visits Classical Friday (7).
“Classical’s a good team,” Broughton said. “That’ll be another big test for us.”
Saugus visits Gloucester Friday (7).