LYNN — The St. Mary’s boys basketball team led the entire game but still had to fend off a couple of Saugus runs as the No. 1 Spartans took down the No. 16 Sachems, 74-56, in the opening round of the Division 3 North tournament Tuesday night at Tony Conigliaro Gymnasium. It was an up-and-down shooting game for St. Mary’s, but the Spartans made the plays at critical times and walked away with the win.
“Saugus brought the intensity tonight and came to compete, and I give them a lot of credit for the way they played tonight,” said St. Mary’s coach Dave Brown. “We were able to work on a lot of things tonight and also find things that we need to continue to work on if we want to keep moving on in the tournament.”
St. Mary’s was led by junior Marcus Brunson-Perez, who finished the game with 12 points on four 3-pointers. Sophomore Ademide Badmus had a double-double with 13 points and 13 rebounds, while Jalen Echevarria had 11 points and four rebounds. Junior Josh Perez had nine points and three rebounds, junior Lee Pacheco had eight points and four rebounds and freshman Ali Barry had six points.
For Saugus, sophomore Joe Lusso led all scorers with 16 points and three rebounds. Sophomore Mason Nickolas had 15 points and six rebounds, while junior forward Nicholas Israelson had a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds. Junior Christian Correia had nine points and five rebounds, while junior Kenny Okoye had four points and five rebounds.
“Obviously St. Mary’s is the No. 1 team for a reason, and they showed it tonight,” said Saugus coach Mark Bertrand. “But our guys played really hard and never gave up. No one gave us a chance in this one, but we earned the right to be here and we went out and showed everyone that we can compete out here.”
The game got off to a back-and-forth start, with both teams employing some tough defense. Saugus got as close as a one-point deficit but St. Mary’s extended its lead to as much as 13, ending the first quarter with a 21-8 advantage.
Saugus opened up the second quarter with a nice run to get right back in the game. Behind an eight-point quarter from Lusso and a couple of baskets from Correia, the Sachems cut the deficit to just five points before St. Mary’s righted the ship. But once the Spartans stopped the run, they knocked down a number of shots before closing the half with a 39-21 lead.
The score pretty much remained there for the entire third quarter, with St. Mary’s taking a 50-34 lead into the fourth. Once the fourth got going, Saugus made it a game again. The Sachems cut the deficit to just nine points with about four minutes to go, but from there things went downhill. A combination of foul trouble and hot shooting by St. Mary’s ended any chance of a comeback, as the Spartans stretched out their lead back to 18 points and cruised to the win.
Despite an overall down season for Saugus (4-17), Bertrand can go into the offseason knowing that the future’s bright for the young Sachems.
“I couldn’t be any happier with how things went this year,” said Bertrand. “We have a very young team and the future is very bright. We’re getting there, and having an experience like this is only going to help our guys going forward.”
As for St. Mary’s (21-2), Catholic Central League foe No. 8 Arlington Catholic waits in the second round. The two teams went at it twice during the regular season, with both matchups coming down to the final minutes.
“We know Arlington Catholic is a very good team, and both times we played them it was a seven-point game in the third quarter, so we know that we’ll have to bring our A-game if we want to come out on top,” Brown said. “Scoring is generally not a problem for us because we have a lot of guys who are confident shooting the ball, but we’re hoping to play better defense and rebound the ball better going forward.”
The Spartans tip off against Arlington Catholic Saturday afternoon (12) at Conigliaro Gymnasium.