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Saugus Ends the Comeback

Posted: January 23, 2008 5:50 a.m.
Updated: March 25, 2008 2:01 a.m.
League championships don't exactly grow on trees.

Seventeen years on the job at Saugus High, Centurions head boys basketball coach Jeff Hallman is still seeking his first. His program hasn't won one since their first, 24 long seasons ago.
But here they are.
In the driver's seat.
Hart nearly pulled off its second-straight major fourth-quarter comeback Tuesday but came up short at Saugus in a 74-66 Centurions victory and at the midway point of Foothill play, Saugus finds itself in a tie with Valencia for the coveted championship.
Both teams are 4-1 heading into Friday's showdown.
"Anytime you beat Hart, it's a good thing and it means you must be doing something right," Hallman said. "We're doing well."
Especially in the first three quarters.
The team built a 20-point lead heading into the fourth quarter before Hart whittled the advantage to six in the final minute.
Hallman gave the Indians (16-6, 2-3) credit.
"I told (Hart coach) Tom (Kelly), quitters don't wear red and black," Hallman said. "They fought hard to make it close."
Ultimately, though, Saugus was too strong early.
Cameron Diorio, who led all scorers with a career-high 26 points, burned the Indians defense from the inside and out and Saugus' defense made life miserable for a Hart team which was coming off a thrilling 14-point comeback win over West Ranch last week.
Leading 19-9 after one quarter, Saugus began to pull away in the second, using a 13-0 run to build a 35-15 edge with 2:08 to play.
Mitch Weber started the surge with a layup.
Joey Dietrich and Michael Cassio, who scored 15 points, capped it off with back-to-back 3-pointers. Saugus led 41-19 at the half.
Not that Saugus (17-3, 4-1) was completely comfortable.
"Coach told us about how Hart's a team that never gives up and warned us about how fired up they were going to be," Diorio said.
With the warning as ammunition, they held off the first burst. After Hart chipped the lead down to 13 points on a Parker Dominguez layup with 2 1/2 minutes remaining in the third quarter, a pair of Diorio baskets and two Cassio free throws righted the ship.
Despite a jumper at the buzzer by Hart's Brad Wyche, who led all Hart scorers with 15 points, Saugus led by 20 again, 55-35.
"Our defense did a really good job," Hallman said.
Then came the fourth quarter. Hart scored just four fewer points in the frame than it had notched in the previous three combined.
With 52 seconds remaining, the Saugus lead was cut to six points on a Wyche theft of a Cassio pass in the backcourt and a layup.
Weber missed an ensuing pair of free throws giving Hart life.
But a Levi Wenrich shot went off the mark and the Indians didn't score again until a Dominguez layup in the final three seconds.
Saugus padded its lead with four free throws.
Now, despite a shaky finish, the Centurions will head into the second half of league play with solid momentum and the knowledge that a win Friday night would make them league title favorites.
It's something they haven't experienced in quite some time.
"It's going to be another really big game," Diorio said. "If we start off good like we did against Hart, I think we'll probably be OK."


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