Hughesville Reaches Final Four
For the first time in school history, the Hughesville High School boy’s basketball team will play into the third week of March.
The Spartans defeated Trinity Saturday afternoon, 67-60, in the quarterfinal round of the PIAA Class AA playoffs at Pottsville’s Martz Hall.
Next up for the Spartans (23-5) will be District 12 champion Imhotep Charter, who defeated Prep Charter, 58-55, also on Saturday.
The Imhotep Panthers, who have won 29 straight games, will face Hughesville Wednesday at 7 p.m. in Class AA state semifinal game at East Pennsboro High School in Enola.
The winner will advance to Saturday’s state championship game at Penn State’s Bryce Jordan Center.
Imhotep ended Hughesville’s season a year ago in the second round of the state tournament.
Hughesville will need a similar game against Imhotep as it played against Trinity (24-8). The Spartans received contributions from up and down the lineup, played with the poise of a champion and delivered the biggest win of school history.
“We had a big plan coming in seven years ago and people kind of thought it was silly around our area,” said Hughesville coach Nick Tagliaferri.
“The first year against Trinity we got blasted (in the state playoffs), our second year we lost to Tulpehocken in overtime when most of these guys were freshman and sophomores, so we were getting better, and last year we won a game before getting the deer in the headlights look until this year we made a run. You have to go through those stages when you’ve never been there before.”
Now, the next stage is set.
Senior Rezin Davis led the way offensively, scoring 27 points. The senior kept Hughesville afloat in the first half, netting 17 points, until the Spartans’ defense caught up to the offense.
In the second half, Hughesville’s ‘D’ allowed just 21 points after surrendering 39 in the first 16 minutes. The Shamrocks only made seven second-half field goals and shot under 30 percent.
A 7-0 run to begin the second half by Hughesville tied the game and set the tone for the remaining 14-plus minutes.
Trinity, though, took Hughesville’s initial punch and led by three points entering the fourth quarter (50-47).
A Greg Taggart 3-pointer-his only field goal of the game-tied the game to start the fourth quarter and Hughesville took its first lead since the first quarter on a pair of Taggart free throws with 6:41 remaining.
Once the Spartans gained the lead, they had little trouble finishing off, the Shamrocks, unlike a few days earlier against West Catholic.
Davis pushed the lead to seven points with 4:17 remaining when he hit the final of his seven 3-pointers. From there, the Spartans sealed their trip to the Final 4 at the foul line, making 4 of 7 attempts.
Brian Gerney complimented Davis with 13 points while Hanford provided the Spartans with a much-needed post presence, scoring 10 points while defending the rim.
Neither team came out awed by the situation and played to the caliber expected by two teams playing in the state quarterfinals.
Rezin Davis 9 2-2 27, Brian Gerney 4 4-5 13, Bryan Hoover 2 0-0 4, Addison Hanford 5 0-2 10, Andy Laychur 3 0-0 6, Jordan Holmes 0 0-0 0, Greg Taggart 1 2-2 5, Drew Eiswerth 0 0-0 0, Bryce Pardoe 1 0-0 2. Totals: 25 8-11 67.
Hughesville 19 13 15 20 – 67
Trinity 22 17 11 10 – 60
3-point goals: Hughesville 9 (Davis 7, Gerney, Taggart); Trinity 9 (Donahue 5, Kindler 2, Osborne, Agnew). Records: Hughesville 23-5, Trinity 24-8.
In their match against West Catholic last Wednesday, Hughesville built a 12-point lead with less than three minutes remaining against West Catholic, but victory was not secure until the final tenth of a second ticked away.
But Hughesville edged West Catholic, 61-58 at Hershey High School. and advanced to the state quarterfinals for the first time ever and will face Trinity Saturday at a time and place to be determined.
“It was one of the longest fourth quarters I’ve ever played in,” said Hughesville guard Greg Taggart, who played one of his best games this season. “It feels good. Now we have to take a deep breath because we have another game Saturday.”
It appeared that quarterfinal date was clinched when Rob Hollomon missed a potential game-tying 3-pointer with two seconds remaining. But when Rezin Davis grabbed the rebound, Hughesville was hit with a technical foul after prematurely rushing the court.
Davis was fouled on the play and hit two foul shots, making it 61-56 but Hollomon connected on both technical free throws, giving West Catholic (16-11) one last shot to tie with a tenth of a second remaining. Any miraculous shot at a buzzer-beater, though, was erased when Bryce Pardoe swatted the inbounds pass away, setting off a raucous celebration among the green and white-clad student section that provided an emotional spark all night.
The Spartans themselves, though, did not wildly celebrate. True, they may have been scared to after what had just happened but it was also because they expected this all season. Hughesville has come a long way in four years and any who are surprised by this historic run are firmly outside of the Spartan locker room.
Gerney was a big reason that run continued Wednesday. The junior guard played his second straight outstanding state playoff game, scoring 19 points and adding four assists. Gerney set the early tone, scoring Hughesville’s first 10 points. West Catholic tied the game at 12-12 but never trailed again after Jordan Holmes scored seconds later.
Holmes was part of a terrific bench that shined throughout the game. Taggart scored 10 of his 13 points in the third quarter, Pardoe grabbed seven rebounds and drew a critical charge in the final minute and Holmes made some good plays in transition.
That strong all-around performance from starters and reserves alike put West Catholic in foul trouble. It also allowed the Spartans to turn a tenuous two-point lead early in the third quarter to the more comfortable 56-44 advantage with 2:57 remaining.
“We played phenomenal basketball for most of the game and then kind of got a little nutty at the end. I’ll take it, don’t get me wrong, but it was a weird one,” Hughesville coach Nick Tagliaferri said. “How long was the last three minutes? That was insane.”
That was one way of describing a stretch in which Tagliaferri was hit with a technical, for asking the referees why it was 10-5 in fouls at that point when the Burrs appeared to be constantly clutching Hughesville ball-handlers, and Hughesville committed six turnovers.
Still, Hughesville made some big defensive stops with Davis (14 points, two steals) and Pardoe both drawing charges before Gerney sank two straight free throws, putting Hughesville ahead 59-56 with 8.9 seconds remaining.
After a Hughesville timeout, Hollomon sped up the court and launched a 3-pointer from near the top of the key. Images of the Communications Tech game in which the Phoenix drained a buzzer-beating near half-court shot might have floated through Hughesville players and fans’ minds, but the shot was off the mark, Davis grabbed the rebound and victory was secure-almost.
Rezin Davis 4 2-4 14, Brian Gerney 6 5-6 19, Bryan Hoover 1 0-0 2, Addison Hanford 2 0-0 4, Andy Laychur 1 0-0 2, Jordan Holmes 1 0-0 2, Greg Taggart 5 1-2 13, Drew Eiswerth 0 0-0 0, Bryce Pardoe 2 1-4 5. Totals 22 9-16 61.
West Catholic12 10 13 23-58
Hughesville17 10 17 17-61
3-pointers: West Catholic 2 (Younger, Williamson); Hughesville 7 (Davis 3, Gerney 2, Taggart 2).
Records: Hughesville 22-5, West Catholic 16-11.
Muncy claimed all three singles matches to secure a 3-2 win at St. John Neumann.
In singles play, No. 1 Dakota Deem, defeated Josh Garcia, 6-2, 7-6 (7-3); No. 2 Noah Sterngold, defeated Jeremy Garcia, 6-1, 7-5; and No. 3 Tedd Waddell, M, defeated Ian Labate, 6-1, 6-1.
The St. John Neumann doubles team of Jimmy Creely/Jude Keenan, defeated Sean Myers/Jordan Meeler, 4-6, 6-3, 6-3; and Darren Crisman/Lucas McNutt, defeated John Waddell/Evan Artley, 6-1, 7-3.