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Saugus boys basketball: On the level

Centurions knock off the second-ranked team in their division

Posted: December 21, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: December 21, 2011 1:55 a.m.

Saugus guard Chris Lockwood (3) breaks away for a layup while Tesoro’s Jalen Bruce trails the play on Tuesday at Saugus High School. Lockwood and the Centurions upset Tesoro, which is ranked No. 2 in CIF-Southern Section Division IIAA.

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Saugus boys basketball hasn’t shied away from tough teams so far this season.

Perhaps that’s because it doesn’t have much of a problem playing with them.

After falling behind by double digits in a sloppy first quarter, the Centurions recovered to win 60-49 on Tuesday night at Saugus High School over Tesoro of Rancho Santa Margarita, the No. 2-ranked team in CIF-Southern Section Division IIAA.

Saugus (7-2), which plays in the same division, is not ranked, but was clearly equipped to handle Tesoro’s level of play.

“We knew we were able to play with them, so we just decided to pick it up a little bit (after the first quarter),” said Saugus senior Jeremy Gatewood, who ended up with a game-high 23 points, including five made 3-pointers.

Much like the rest of the team, though, Gatewood struggled to get the ball in the basket early on, missing his first five shots before sinking back-to-back 3-pointers in the second quarter.

As a team, the Centurions made just 4-of-16 shots in the opening frame, the end of which resulted in a 19-8 Titans lead.

Freshman center Nick Pallas made all four of his shot attempts up to that point for Tesoro (9-2), which continued to try to feed the ball inside to the tallest player on the court.

Pallas led the Titans with 19 points, but he was kept under control as the game wore on.

“The intensity really picked up,” said Saugus head coach Derek Ballard of his team’s defense, “and the key was that we were really able to get back to fundamentals.”

Saugus was also helped by its long-range shooting, which began to fall in the second quarter.

Gatewood and teammate Chris Lockwood combined to make three straight 3-pointers to cut the lead to 23-19 at the 4:10 mark of the second.

Lockwood scored 14 points.

By halftime, the Titans’ lead was down to 28-26 and the comeback was in full force.

“They were in a 2-3 matchup zone and our typical zone offense wasn’t working against it,” Ballard said. “So we had to kind of change it up and put something different in, and it worked.”

After the rough start, the Centurions ended up shooting 40 percent and completed the come-from-behind win despite not attempting a single free throw in the game.

Yet another Gatewood trey gave Saugus its first lead of the game, 35-34 with 5:05 left in the third quarter.

Tesoro never led again after that point, as Pallas scored just one point in the fourth quarter and Titans couldn’t find a consistent scorer elsewhere.

Saugus senior Matt Coleman finished with 10 points and a team-high seven rebounds.

The Centurions outrebounded Tesoro 24-18 in the game, yet another sign of the team’s steady improvement.

“We started off a little rough, but I think we’re starting to click now,” Gatewood said.

On Thursday, the tough preleague schedule continues as Saugus hosts CIF-SS Div. IAA No. 15 Oxnard at 6:30 p.m.

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