SWAMPSCOTT– For three quarters of Friday’s game between the Saugus and Swampscott boys basketball teams, the Big Blue didn’t bring the energy it takes to win. The Sachems took advantage of Swampscott’s miscues and mounted a lead as the Big Blue struggled. Then Swampscott flipped the switch in the fourth quarter and the young Sachems couldn’t keep pace.
The end result was a 63-51 come-from-behind win for the Big Blue at Richard Lynch Gymnasium.
“In the first half, the defense wasn’t as aggressive as we should’ve been playing,” Swampscott coach Justin Fucile said. “Offensively, we felt we were fine. We were getting good shots, we just weren’t making them. At halftime, (assistant) coach (Fred) Hogan did a great job in the locker room talking about adjustments on defense.”
Jackson Byrne led the Big Blue with 22 points. Cam O’Brien scored 16, Chris Campos added eight and Max Pegnato finished with seven.
For Saugus, Joey Lusso (14 points), Mason Nickolas (13) and Christian Correia (10) each scored in double-figures. Jason Casaletto and Kenny Okoye scored six points apiece.
“I think our age showed a little bit tonight,” Saugus coach Mark Bertrand said. “We got a little panicky when we shouldn’t have. We had the lead, things were going our way. Then all the sudden there was a swing of momentum. We talked about runs, we knew they were going to go on a run. It’s how we react to those runs.”
Saugus got the start it wanted in the first quarter. Byrne banked in a 3-pointer in the early minutes but Swampcott froze from there. While the Big Blue struggled to score, Saugus made its shots. Casaletto’s basket at the buzzer gave the Sachems a 20-7 lead heading into the second quarter.
It was more of the same in period No. 2. Campos scored six points off the bench for the Big Blue to help their offense gain traction. Swampscott slimmed its deficit to within single digits but a late Saugus rally gave the Sachems a 35-24 lead at halftime.
“I thought we executed and did a lot of good things in the first half,” Bertrand said. “We were hitting our shots, we were attacking the basket. Give credit to Swampscott. They made an adjustment and we didn’t.”
With Corriea, Saugus’ leading scorer, nursing an injury on the bench, the Sachems froze. Saugus was limited to just seven points in the third quarter, opening the door for Swampscott to crawl back into the mix. O’Brien and Lusso swapped 3-pointers, making it a 42-31 game late in the period. Back-to-back buckets from Campos and Byrne sliced Saugus’ lead to seven, 42-35, at the end of the third quarter.
“Christian’s our best player,” Bertrand said. “When he went down, I think our guys looked at him too. He’s a tremendous leader for us. He’s only a junior and he does a lot. When he went down, the kids just had nowhere to turn.”
It was all Swampscott from there. The Big Blue outscored Saugus 28-9 in the final period, hitting four 3-pointers in the process. Swampscott started the quarter with an 8-0 run to grab a 43-42 lead, its first lead of the night. In the blink of an eye, the Big Blue turned the tables and carried a 60-51 lead in the final minute. Byrne, who scored 12 points in the fourth quarter, finished the win with a few late free throws.
“We started driving, making efforts to drive to the basket, and we were getting shooters open in rhythm,” Fucile said. “That’s what the difference was. They were catching the ball in rhythm and they knocked their shots down.”
Swampscott (8-9) hosts Danvers Tuesday night (7) during its annual senior night.
“We’ve said since day one that we’re getting 10 wins,” Fucile said. “We want at least 10 wins. We can get 11 if we win out. That’s the goal.”
Saugus (2-14) hosts Salem Monday night (7).