Saugus boys basketball knocks off Valencia with a relentless attack

Valencia’s Bryce Bedgood, #35, goes up for a basket as Saugus Bryce Mejia, #1, and Max Guardado, #45, defend on the play during first period action in a Foothill League game at Valencia High Friday, December 1, 2023. (Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

Saugus Bryce Mejia, #1, looses the ball as Valencia’s Joey Pulaski, 334, defends on the play during first period action in a Foothill League game at Valencia High Friday, December 1, 2023. (Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

Valencia’s Tyler Miller, #24, is fouled by Saugus Ryan Sanchez, #2, during second period action in a Foothill League game at Valencia High Friday, December 1, 2023. (Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

Valencia’s Ashton Carraway, #4, looks for a pass as Saugus Peter Burton, #5, defends on the play during first period action in a Foothill League game at Valencia High Friday, December 1, 2023. (Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

Valencia’s Stacy Webb, #12, looks for a shot as Saugus Peter Burton, #5, and Matthew Correa, #3, defend on the play during first period action in a Foothill League game at Valencia High Friday, December 1, 2023. (Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

Saugus Bryce Mejia, #1, runs down a loose ball as Valencia’s Jacob Michel-Zavala, #13, looks on during third period action in a Foothill League game at Valencia High Friday, December 1, 2023. (Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

Saugus Peter Burton, #5, passes away as Valencia’s Stacy Webb, #12, defends on the play during first period action in a Foothill League game at Valencia High Friday, December 1, 2023. (Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

Valencia’s Stacy Webb, #12, fouls Saugus Matthew Correa, #3, during third period action in a Foothill League game at Valencia High Friday, December 1, 2023. (Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

Saugus high coach Alfredo Manzano during game action against Valencia at Valencia High Friday, December 1, 2023. (Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

Saugus Justin Perez, #0, is fouled by Valencia’s Dabe Princewill, #25, during third period action in a Foothill League game at Valencia High Friday, December 1, 2023. (Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

Valencia’s Ashton Carraway, #4, reaches to block a shot attempt by Saugus’ Max Guardado, #45, during third period action in a Foothill League game at Valencia High Friday, December 1, 2023. (Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

Valencia’s Bryce Bedgood, #35, and Saugus Bryce Mejia, #1, and Max Guardado, #45, scramble for a loose ball during third period action in a Foothill League game at Valencia High Friday, December 1, 2023. (Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

Valencia’s Dabe Princewill, #25, tries to get control of the ball as Saugus Ryan Sanchez, #2, defends on the play during second period action in a Foothill League game at Valencia High Friday, December 1, 2023. (Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

Valencia’s Stacy Webb, #12, tries to get through Saugus defenders Wyatt Wilson, #12 and Justin Perez, #0, during second period action in a Foothill League game at Valencia High Friday, December 1, 2023. (Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

Valencia’s Jacob Mazy, #0, knocks the ball from Saugus Justin Perez, #0, during third period action in a Foothill League game at Valencia High Friday, December 1, 2023. (Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

Valencia high coach Bill Bedgood during game action against Saugus in a Foothill League game at Valencia High Friday, December 1, 2023. (Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

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VALENCIA — The Saugus boys basketball team came into Friday night’s Foothill League game against Valencia with an important theme on its mind: stop Bryce Bedgood.

Behind a strong defensive performance from junior Max Guardado in the middle, the Centurions were able to do just that, making things difficult for Valencia’s talented center for the majority of the game.

In tandem with his defensive effort, Guardado’s contributions on the offensive side of the ball, along with the scoring prowess of Justin Perez and Bryce Mejia, helped propel Saugus to a 71-50 victory over Valencia.

“My mindset was to do my job and coach told me to lock him up and do the best of my ability to stop him. Be aggressive and have more energy,” said Guardado, who finished with 13 points, eight rebounds and three assists. “I’ve faced a lot of good centers and I’ve learned a lot from them. I try to look for their strong suits and find their weaknesses.”

“Our game plan was to stop Bryce. He’s very versatile, he can shoot the ball, he can rebound, he can block, he is the whole package,” Perez said. “So our main thing was to get stops on defense and push in transition, and that’s what we did tonight. We had a lot of energy.”

The Centurions didn’t step off the gas pedal for four quarters, pushing in transition off defensive rebounds and moving the ball quickly around the perimeter to create openings.

Mejia found himself as the recipient of several open looks due to the quick ball movement, finishing the game with 16 points, including four 3-pointers.

Perez also hit a pair of 3s, but dealt most of his damage in the paint both with his scoring and rebounding. He finished with 23 points and 14 rebounds, nine of which came on the offensive end on a handful of tip-ins.

“He has the feel to be around the basket for these put backs and all these little things that he does,” Saugus head coach Alfredo Manzano said about Perez. “Initially, his first year we had him more in the high post area but we’ve been putting him out on the perimeter because that’s his natural position. But he still has his instincts down low, so he knows the perimeter and he’s working it down there as well.”

Valencia made a concerted effort to get Bedgood more involved on offense in the the second half after he was held to six points in the first half.

He had a pair of three-point plays, a couple of big blocks and a thunderous slam in the third quarter to help shrink Saugus’ advantage to a single digit.

His teammates looked for him in the post often and he was able to make some difficult shots over Guardado’s outstretched arms, and even got him in a bit of foul trouble.

But it was too little too late, as Valencia wasn’t able to match Saugus’ overall speed and energy, and the Centurions blew open the lead in the fourth quarter.

Matthew Correa hit two 3-pointers and finished with nine points for Saugus. Peter Burton added eight points, seven rebounds and four assists for the Centurions.

Valencia dropped to 0-2 in Foothill League competition, and will play for its first league win on Tuesday against Castaic on the road.

Saugus, which is 2-0 in the Foothill League, faces a difficult test next against last year’s league champions West Ranch at home.

Perez said it will be a tough challenge against the Wildcats, but they will be ready thanks to their defense and conditioning.

“West Ranch has always been a talented team, especially these last couple of years. The way we’ve been going the last six games, we’ve had a lot of energy on defense and that’s been helping us a lot,” he said. “As a whole, I think we have a chance to have a great season. We’ve been conditioning since day one, working since March. It’s been a journey.”

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