Hughes Toughs Out Close Win Over Taft

12/18/2017

The Hughes Big Red defeated the Taft Senators in a close, 61-55 win. It was a tight game the entire way through, with neither team leading by more than seven points during the game.

Prior to tip-off, Big Red coach Bryan Wyant said he wanted his team to "handle the environment." "Against Woodward, we let the crowd get to us and we didn't play our best. Tonight will be a similar environment and I think handling the crowd better will be key", Wyant said. 

Wyant also noted Taft would be unlike any opponent Hughes has faced yet. "They run a completely different style than what we've seen," Wyant said. "(Taft) plays disciplined basketball, but it can look like chaos, so they can be difficult to read."

For Taft, coach DeMarco Bradley Sr. said, As far as game plan goes, I want to make them slow us down. Getting out in transition and being effective in that area is our goal tonight to help get the win."

Bradley Sr. also felt his team was ready for the challenge. "A man who fails to plan, plans to fail," said Bradley Sr. when asked about preparation for Hughes. "Our team should be ready for whatever comes our way tonight."

In the early part of the first quarter, Taft looked to be in control. The Senators jumped out to a quick 15-8 lead before Big Red responded with a 12-0 run to grab a 20-15 lead. Taft would score two more baskets to bring the back-and-forth quarter to close, with Big Red ahead by one, 20-19. 

Giovanni Santiago was a large part of Hughes' offense in the first quarter, scoring 10 points. Taft played well as a team, with each player making an impact in some way. 

The second quarter was a strong defensive showing on both sides, with neither team scoring more than 12 points. 

Taft and Hughes remained locked in a tight battle at the half, as neither team was able to seize control. Taft would wake a 31-29 lead into the break though, as both teams kept fighting for an advantage. 

In the third quarter, Hughes seemed to take some control by going on a run to take the lead back. However, Taft was able to fight back and take a 45-42 lead into the fourth quarter behind some phenomenal defense from DeMarco Bradley Jr.

The fourth quarter was no different than the previous three, with the two teams separated by a mere three points with under a minute left to play. However, clutch free throws down the stretch and a fourth quarter outbreak by Shawn Hawkins allowed Hughes to grab the victory!

Giovanni Santiago led the Big Red in points with 24, in addition to leading the team in assists (four) and steals (three). Santiago also grabbed six rebounds and went 15-16 from the free throw line, bringing him to 45-51 (88.2%) on the year. 

"It was a huge win for us tonight, especially with how we played at Woodward," Santiago said. "We needed this win for the CMAC, to stay in the race, and for our confidence. It was a great win for this team."

Hawkins posted a double-double for Hughes, scoring 12 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. Hawkins also showed activity on the defensive end, getting two steals. 

"All that was on my mind was, 'Just get a bucket,'" Hawkins said of his big performance down the stretch. "I had the green light, so I knew if I screwed up I could transition back to defense. I was just like, 'Get a bucket.'"

Mahamadou Samassa led Taft in scoring with 17 points, while DeShawn Lawrence and DeMarco Bradley Jr also reached double-figures with 13 and 11 points respectively. 

"We didn't play well at Woodward, and tonight was a different story. We defended, they didn't score in the 60s," Wyant said when asked what he was most pleased with about the win. "We always feel like we can get to 60. If we can keep teams under 60, we'll have a chance... We showed we can win when we don't play our best."

Next, both teams have tournaments on the schedule. Hughes will travel to Florida to take part in the Gulliver Prep Tournament, while Taft will look to bounce back in the Ironton Invitational!