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SAUGUS — It’s been a tough start to the season for the Saugus boys basketball team. Finding the win column has been easier said than done and the Sachems have experienced their share of struggles in looking for their best combinations.
Monday night at John Towers Gymnasium, however, Saugus looked like anything but a struggling team. With a few tweaks in rotations and great energy from start to finish, Saugus coasted past Northeast in a 73-48 non-conference win.
“We changed our lineup up a little bit,” Sachems coach Mark Bertrand said. “We had a great practice. We knew this was a big game. We tell the kids that every game is a big game for us and we tell them that wins are hard to come by. We did a lot of preparation, we scouted for these guys but had to take it one quarter at a time. The kids were ready. I give them a lot of credit.”
Saugus jumped out to an early double-digit lead after surrendering the first basket and never looked back. The fluid Sachems offense featured nine different scorers, led by Joe Lusso’s game-high 15 points. Myles Manalaysay poured in 14 points, Christian Correia followed with 12, Michael Bertrand added 11 and Andrew Aguilar scored nine (all via 3-pointers).
“I was very pleased with the way we distributed the ball,” Bertrand said. “I have kind of a double-edge sword there. I have a nice point guard with Myles. Joe has been our point guard the last couple years and he does a good job distributing the ball. Christian’s a really smart player too and then my son Michael can come in and do it. Our key is we have to get everybody involved. We can’t just have two or three scorers, we need to have everybody involved and I think we did a good job at that.”
Angelo Sepe got the Knights started with a floater after both teams came up empty on their first few possessions. Saugus reclaimed the lead on a 7-0 run, led by baskets from Correia and Tyrone Manderson, and Michael Bertrand’s step-back 3-pointer. Manalaysay found a wide-open Manderson for an easy layup and Saugus captured the momentum in the early going. Sepe stopped the bleeding with another floater before Manalaysay bumped the lead to 12-4 on a 3-pointer. With two fastbreak layups in the closing seconds, Saugus led 19-9 at the end of the first quarter.
A 10-0 Saugus run to start the second quarter forced Northeast to burn a timeout as the Knights trailed 29-9. Turnovers become Northeast’s undoing over the next few minutes, allowing the Sachems to build their lead with transition baskets. Correia knocked home a 3-pointer, starting a 13-8 Saugus run to cap the half. Saugus carried a comfortable 42-17 lead at halftime.
“We did a really good job getting some anticipation,” Bertrand said. “We filled the lanes, we put a little pressure on them. We felt that if we pressured them we could get some baskets off turnovers. We’ve had a hard time scoring. We scored 73 so I have to be happy with that.”
The second half was smooth sailing for Saugus. Aguilar swished three 3-pointers off the bench in the fourth quarter to help seal the 73-48 win.
“Andrew’s a senior and he’s just coming back from a sprained ankle,” Bertrand said. “I’m really happy for him and Kyle Moise. They’ve been great in practice. Donovan Clark and Ryan Mabee are sophomores and we got them both in there. It was a nice team win.”
Saugus (3-7) clinched a Division 3 North state tournament bid under the Sullivan Rule. The Sullivan Rule grants teams who finish with a record of .500 or above in games against opponents of higher divisions entry into the postseason.
The Sachems host Salem Tuesday (7).