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Cents On Fire in Opener

Posted: February 16, 2008 2:23 a.m.
Updated: April 18, 2008 5:02 a.m.

Saugus' Michael Cassio (4) dribbles past Burroughs' Matt McQuown Friday in the Centurions' 72-53 first round CIF-Southern Section Division II-AA playoffs.

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It was obvious how much Saugus' league-ending loss to Hart Feb. 8 felt like a knife to the heart.

Just the reminder of the Foothill League-title-preventing loss washed a smile off Centurions forward Mario Wright's face Friday night after the first round CIF-Southern Section Division II-AA playoffs.

It's fuel now, and the Centurions burned visiting Burroughs of Burbank with a second-half conflagration in a 72-53 win at Saugus High.

"Getting that second seed (from the Foothill League) kind of affected the team," Wright said. "We kind of used that emotion in the game."

Saugus' 57-53 loss to Hart meant the Centurions' 25-year wait for a league crown would be prolonged.

Centurions head coach Jeff Hallman said the school held a rally/lunch for its four winter sports teams this week.

The three others won league titles.

"It was the hardest pizza I ever swallowed," Hallman said.

The team, he added, practiced this week without much passion.

The passion returned Friday.

Wright scored 10 points in the game, including four on two thunder dunks.

Saugus' Mitch Weber was a spark plug for the Centurions (22-5), leading them in scoring with 16 points, but playing big throughout.

He had to step up as Wright had three fouls with 6:15 to play in the second quarter.

Center Cameron Diorio, who had eight quick points in the first quarter, had to exit the game early with a leg injury suffered in the second quarter.

"Mario and Cameron are two key contributors, but I wasn't worried at all," Weber said. "Everyone (on the team) can contribute."

Weber and Hallman noted the play of backup center Kyle Eaton, who scored eight points and filled in the hole in the Saugus post.

Early on, though, Saugus couldn't beat off the former Foothill League members. The Indians (13-14) kept it close, thanks in large part to senior swingman Chris Smith. Smith provided scoring punch, leading the Indians with 26 points.

But Burroughs never took advantage of Saugus' seemingly vulnerable post.

Saugus outscored Burroughs 39-19 in the second half after it led the Indians 33-32 at halftime.

It had a lot to do with the Centurions' defense and a whole lot to do with the Indians' shooting. Burroughs hit only 7-of-26 shots in the second half.

"The last six games of (Pacific) league (play), the offense was going really well," Smith said. "But tonight, we couldn't hit any baskets. That was the name of the game."

Saugus started to gain separation with a 10-0 run in the third quarter. The Centurions led 39-38 with 4:30 to play in the third after a 3-pointer from Burroughs' Chris Morris. But Saugus forced a couple of turnovers and penetrated inside for some easy layups.

The blowout took shape in the fourth quarter with a 10-2 run.

Burroughs could never counter.

The Centurions will play the winner of Bishop Montgomery-Charter Oak in the second round on Tuesday at a site to be determined.

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