Rezin Davis is right. Hughesville has been here before and it showed on Tuesday night.
When the defending Class AA district champions watched a 17-point fourth-quarter lead dip to 10 points against Troy at Mansfield’s Decker Gymnasium, the Spartans never flinched. They dug in, played the hard-nosed defense expected from coach Nick Tagliaferri and guaranteed itself a fourth consecutive trip to the PIAA Class AA playoffs, despite making just one field goal over the final eight minutes..
Hughesville’s 61-47 victory over No. 2 seed Troy in the District 4 Class AA semifinals also ensured the No. 3 Spartans a rematch in the district final.
“We’ve been here for a long time and we’ve been playing together since we were freshmen,” said Davis. “Now that we’re seniors and juniors it helps with all the experience we have.”
Hughesville will also have experience against its district final opponent.
The Spartans (20-4) will either meet Loyalsock or Southern Columbia Saturday. The Tigers and Lancers, who Hughesville shared the Heartland-II Conference title with, split their season series. Troy (21-4) will play the loser of Southern/Loyalsock in the consolation game and for the district’s final state playoff berth.
Hughesville was playing Troy for the first time and the gritty Trojans never caved and closed to within 10 points with 5:15 remaining in the fourth quarter. They couldn’t break that barrier, however, as they missed a shot and turned the ball over on a traveling call on their next possession.
“They’re tough,” said Hughesville center Addison Hanford, who returned to the starting lineup after coming off the bench last week due to sickness. “They kept fighting to the end. They’re a good team and they can shoot.
“Our execution was not the best, but they fought really hard.”
The teams traded free throws to keep the Hughesville advantage at 10 points, but once again Troy failed to claw closer when it missed a shot with under 3:20 remaining. The Hughesville parade to the foul line ensued and the Spartans closed out the game making 8-of-12 attempts.
“They’re good and they are a very difficult team to guard,” said Hughesville coach Nick Tagliaferri. “It was disappointing we didn’t convert easy layups, we missed some free throw opportunities and we had some open jumpers. We were really close to that getting out of hand.
“I told them we played a pretty good game, but we didn’t play a great game because we didn’t convert. If we converted that would have gotten out of hand.”
Troy’s Bryant House helped avoid that. He trimmed his team’s 17-point deficit entering the final quarter to 11 points by scoring nine points in the first 2:45 of the fourth.
Davis scored Hughesville’s only field goal in the fourth when he leaked out on the break for an easy layup with less than six minutes remaining. His basket gave Hughesville a 13-point lead (52-39).
House, though, hit a 3-pointer with 5:15 left. It was his final field goal of the game. He was held to a made throw and his team to just five points in the last five-plus minutes.
Davis, Hughesville’s all-time leading scorer, finished with a game-high 21 points. He was shut out from the 3-point line, but became the consistent scorer the Spartans lacked in their one-point win over Mount Carmel in the first round of districts.
Brian Gerney added 10 points for the Spartans, who also received a lift from inside the paint from Hanford. The junior scored nine points and helped the taller Spartans grab 12 offensive rebounds.
“We definitely wanted to control the boards,” said Hanford. “It definitely got us going and got points on the board for us.”
Troy lefty Jordan Brunelle slashed his way through the Hughesville defense for 16 points.
“He’s real good,” said Davis. “We don’t get a chance to come up here and see the Northern Tier and teams like this. He’s a good player and is strong to the basket. He’s a good slasher and moves well without the ball. He’s tough to corral.”
Brunelle kept Troy within striking distance in the first half. He scored nine of his team’s 19 points in the first 16 minutes as Hughesville rushed to a 30-19 halftime lead.
“He’s tough to guard and I’d take him on my team any day,” said Tagliaferri.
House scored all 11 of his points in the fourth quarter. Chris Stroup added 10, but was held scoreless in the final eight minutes.
Bryan Hoover 1 3-4 6, Andy Laychur 1 1-2 3, Jordan Holmes 2 1-2 6, Drew Eiswerth 0 0-0 0, Greg Taggart 1 3-6 6, Rezin Davis 8 5-7 21, Bryce Pardoe 0 0-0 0, Addison Hanford 4 1-2 9, Brian Gerney 4 1-2 10, Torin Jeffreys 0 0-0 0, Ryan Akers 0 0-0 0. Totals: 21 15-25 61.
Jordan Brunelle 6 4-8 16, Chris Stroup 4 0-0 10, Bryant House 4 2-2 11, Chance Wright 1 1-1 3, Vance Spencer 0 0-0 0, Tyler Schucker 3 0-0 7, Brendan Cole 0 0-0 0, Seth Grantier 0 0-0 0. Totals: 18 7-11 47.
Hughesville 12 18 19 12 61
Troy 9 10 14 14 47
3-point goals: Hughesville 4 (Hoover, Holmes, Taggart, Gerney), Troy 4 (Stroup 2, House, Schucker).
Records: Hughesville 20-4, Troy 21-4. Next: Hughesville vs. Southern/Loyalsock winner District 4 Class AA Championship (Sat); Troy vs. Southern/Loyalsock loser, TBA.