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Arlington Catholic win a microcosm of Saugus girls basketball’s surge

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By Dom Nicastro


The Saugus High School girls basketball team are as red-hot as the color of their uniforms. The Sachems have won seven out of eight games, the latest coming Tuesday, Jan. 30 over Division 3 nonleague foe Arlington Catholic. That puts them at 9-3 and en route to land their second-straight Northeastern Conference Lynch division title.

First-year Head Coach Joe Lowe’s team beat Arlington Catholic, 50-45. That was a significant win. Arlington Catholic came into the game at 7-5 and ranked 16 in the latest MIAA Division 3 power rankings. Saugus was ranked 19.

A win over a higher-ranked team? On the road? Always a good thing. Saugus is eyeing the postseason not only for qualification but to win a game when they get there. That’s been the one thing missing from the past decade of success.

“That’s a good measuring stick game for us,” Lowe said of Arlington Catholic. “That’s the kind of team that’s going to be in the tournament. And they’re tough.”

Lowe wants nothing more than for his team to grab a home game in the tourney and get a big win in front of a big home crowd. “I’ve been trying to preach to the girls that being the only team in the school who’s playing in late February/early March is fun,” Lowe said. “Everybody’s coming to your games, and I want that for them. That’s one of the big things I’m pushing for. I want a home playoff game. I want them to get that first win that Saugus hasn’t had in a while. I graduated in 2010, and I know they haven’t had a playoff win since then. And it didn’t in the 10 years prior so it’s been a long time.”

In the big win over Arlington Catholic, Peyton DiBiasio led the way for the Sachems with a monster, 25-point effort. Ashleigh Moore had some clutch 3-pointers, and Madi Femino and Devany Millerick played solid defense down the stretch.

Saugus picked up another win the day before. The Sachems defended their homecourt against Lynn English. DiBiasio led Saugus with 17 points. Ana Silva chipped in with nine points; Ella Castle scored 11 in the win.

Saugus last week topped Winthrop, 47-42. Castle topped the Sachems in scoring this time with 17, and DiBiasio (12) and Ashleen Escobar (11) were also in double figures. Once again, it was Millerick and Femino who came up big on the defensive end of the floor down the stretch.

The Sachems have showcased a blend of skill, tenacity and strategic gameplay. Coach Lowe expressed great satisfaction with his team’s defensive capabilities and its prowess in rebounding, especially against taller opponents. One notable aspect of the Sachems’ play has been their ability to compete effectively despite a height disadvantage. This has been possible through excellent boxing out and physical play, a testament to the team’s determination, focus on fundamentals and coaching strategy.

“I’ve just been happy with the way they defend and rebound, and we’re starting to shoot the ball a little better,” Lowe said. “We made seven threes the other night, but Winthrop rolls out two girls close to six-footers and three girls that are closer to 5-10, and I think the tallest girl we have is 5-8. And we outrebounded them and on the offensive boards, too. We held them to eight offensive boards, and we had around 11-12. The effort and the tenacity that they play with … I couldn’t be happier.”

The Sachems have displayed a remarkable ability to adapt to various defensive strategies, ranging from man-to-man to various zone defenses with traps. Lowe’s approach of implementing a “multi-D” philosophy has been effective, as evidenced by the team’s performance in limiting opponents’ scoring.

“We’ll do a lot of different defenses,” Lowe said. “They are moving in the right spots, and they’re moving aggressively. Peyton’s one of our better players, and she had seven steals the other night against Winthrop. And she was just all over the place. That’s kind of how most of our girls have been on the defensive end.”

Coach Lowe lauded the contributions of players DiBiasio, Castle and Escobar, noting their significant scoring impact. He particularly praised Castle’s ability to hit from anywhere and DiBiasio’s athleticism.

This points to a well-rounded team with players who can step up in crucial moments. Then you have standout defenders like Millerick, Femino and Madison Botta. The latter two were captains on the Northeastern Conference champion soccer team that made a nice run in the postseason to the Round of 16 in the fall.

“Madi didn’t play a ton last year. She had a fractured tibia or fibula, something with her leg in the first six weeks of the season last year,” Lowe said. “And going into this year, I told her I just need you to play defense. And she does. She’s all over the court. And she rebounds, and she gets offensive rebounds. But with that, though, she’s been knocking down open threes, and she’s stepped up her game going to the basket and making decisions and passing. She’s one of our highest plus-minus kids. So when she’s on the court, we score more than the other teams, because she just works. Madison, too. I call them the two Maddies. They just work. I’ll just say go cover the team’s best player, and it’s usually pretty successful for us.”

Coach Lowe emphasized the strong community support and the multi-sport background of many players. He said there’s a big crossover of athletes, and he has many multi-sport athletes, indicating the athletic versatility and the supportive community that contributes to the team’s success.

Looking forward, Coach Lowe is focused on securing a home playoff game. His goal of playing deep into the postseason reflects his ambition to elevate the team to new heights.

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