(Amesbury MA) This was no stroll in the park.
Bodies flew and more than feelings were hurt in a game won by Saugus, 57-44, over Amesbury on Thursday night.
Saugus moves on to the quarterfinals of Division 3 North and will face Stoneham. The Sachems (10-11) had a win over Stoneham during the regular season.
Amesbury (12-8) appeared out of synch all game long. Maybe it was the physical play. Maybe it was the pressure of a packed house. Whatever it was, the Indians took very poor care of the ball (23 turnovers by my count) and did not defend the perimeter (eight 3’s for Saugus) very well.
For a half, Saugus had just as much trouble as Amesbury did. The Indians were high energy, man-to-man defenders and had shot blockers available in close.
It was only 20-18 at the half and you knew that the team that could put some points together would be able to create separation.
Saugus was that team in the third quarter. David Rowinsky’s second three of the quarter, at the three-minute mark, gave the visitors the lead (26-24) and they never trailed thereafter.
Dave Rowinsky’s second three was also part of eight straight points Saugus put together to lead, 31-24.
The Indians answered with a Dan Welch layup and a Kyle Martin jumper.
But instead of this being the start of a run back into contention, it turned out to be momentary and the Sachems followed with their second eight-point streak of the quarter. A layin from Even DeCristoforo started it and then there were killer three’s, twenty-three seconds apart, by David
Rowinsky (16 points) and Dan Bertrand (12 points).
That second eight-spot pushed the deficit for Amesbury to double figures (39-28) with 1 ½ to go in the third quarter. The Indians did not have enough shot makers beyond Dan Welch (17 points) to get closer the rest of the way.
Key to the win? The effectiveness of the Saugus zone defense. In the first half the zone was strictly half-court. In the crucial third quarter that zone moved to three quarters and was a game-changer. The Sachems trapped and jumped passing lanes and Amesbury fell away from productive offense.
The big need for Amesbury was for someone to hit from the outside. Fred Halloran made their only three in the first half. The Indians did get three from long range in the final quarter (Eric Dawes, Fred Halloran, Riley O’Connor) but the lead was already 48-31 and it was not nearly enough to set up a close finish.
Saugus connected four times from long range in the breakaway third quarter. Combine that with nine AHS miscues in the same quarter and you quickly realize why a 23-10 point spread occurred.
This was a very physical game. There were dives for basketballs and every layup was heavily contested. Saugus, from the Northeast Conference, was definitely more used to physical play while Amesbury appeared distracted by it.
Great crowd. Saugus brought a bus full and they ended up having plenty to cheer about in the second half.
Dan Bertrand has committed to Norwich (VT) where he’ll join his brother Joe. Their father is an assistant coach with Saugus.
Kyle Autilio will be going to D2 Assumption next year to play baseball. Kyle was the Sachems point guard this evening and had plenty to do with Saugus having only fourteen turnovers for the night.
Amesbury will graduate seven seniors including the starting five.
(All of the pictures above and below will enlarge considerably if you click on them.)