SAUGUS — The Saugus girls basketball team showed off its toughness Monday night, as the No. 7 Sachems rode an intense defensive effort to a 56-39 win over Northeastern Conference foe No. 10 Marblehead in the first round of the Division 2 North tournament at John W. Towers Gymnasium. The final score doesn’t quite show how close the game was, as the two teams were never more than six points apart until the final few minutes.
“What a great game on both sides, it really was,” said Saugus coach Mark Schruender. “We had so much respect for Marblehead coming in and they showed us why. Both teams worked all night. Marblehead didn’t quit the whole time, but neither did we. Our team has just been so resilient all season, and it really showed tonight.”
Senior Alessia Salzillo led the way for Saugus, notching 14 points and six rebounds. Junior Taylor Bogdanski was right behind with 13 points and two rebounds, while junior Kiley Ronan had eight points and seven rebounds. Junior Molly Granara had six points and two rebounds, hile junior Shaylin Groark had five points and two rebounds.
For Marblehead, sophomore Emily Clough filled the stat sheet with a double-double of 10 points, 19 rebounds and five blocks. Junior Maddy Lowy added eight points and two rebounds, while sophomore Maddie Erskine had seven points and eight rebounds. Sophomore Leila Walton had six points and four rebounds, while freshman Annika Haley had four points and one rebound.
“Saugus is just a very tough team, and they really brought it tonight,” said Marblehead interim coach Paul Moran, who used to coach the boys team at Saugus. “We weren’t prepared very well for their press defense, and I have to take responsibility for that. But the girls fought so hard all game and all season, I couldn’t be prouder of them.”
The game started off as a defensive battle on both sides, with Saugus getting the slight edge in the early going. Behind a great full-court press, the Sachems forced a number of turnovers and got some quick transition baskets. But Marblehead hung tough throughout, and after the first quarter Saugus only held a 10-6 lead.
The second quarter was a dead heat as well, with Marblehead actually taking its first lead at one point on a 3-pointer by Lowy. Saugus eventually fought back though, and the Sachems took a 26-22 lead into halftime.
Things remained the same in the third quarter, with three lead changes and one tie in the frame. A late run by Saugus pushed the Sachems ahead, 36-33, going into the final quarter.
In the fourth, Saugus finally got over the hump. The Sachems had a huge quarter, outscoring the Magicians 20-6 to build up a big lead. The run was spurred on by Salzillo, who scored eight of her 14 points in the final quarter. Add in big shots by Bogdanski, Ronan and Granara, and Saugus ran away at the end.
For Marblehead (10-11), the door closes on a season that saw a coaching substitution a week in. But with a number of young players returning next year, Moran knows the Magicians are a team on the rise.
“This is a young team and now they’ve gotten a taste of the tournament in a hostile environment like this, which will only help them,” said Moran. “Hopefully it’ll be our turn soon, but I’ll tell you what, Marblehead isn’t going anywhere.”
As for Saugus (14-7), possibly the toughest test of its season is coming up next. The Sachems will go up against No. 2 Tewksbury (17-3) Thursday night (8).
“It’s survive and advance,” said Schruender. “I’m going to watch the film on Tewksbury, but I know they’re an awesome team. They won the MVC (Merrimack Valley Conference) and they’re the No. 2 seed for a reason. So we’ll have to play hard and probably play our best game of the season to pull out a win.”
Division 4 North
Bishop Fenwick 49, Snowden 46
Senior Nik Pignone led the way with 14 points to held the Crusaders earn a win in the opening round of the state tournament Monday night. Senior JaySean Stuart was right behind with 13 points, while Jason Romans nearly had a double-double with 10 points and seven rebounds. Senior Nate Andrews added eight points, 10 rebounds and seven blocks.
Next up for Fenwick (12-9) is a matchup with No. 2 KIPP Academy (15-5) Thursday night (7).
Division 1 North
Reading 56, Revere 38
The Patriots trailed 36-22 at halftime and couldn’t dig themselves out of the deficit in the second half. Revere ends the season at 11-11.