Hughes Wins Close Game in OT Against #1 Taft


On Friday, January 18, Hughes (11-2, 6-1) walked into Friday's matchup against Taft (11-1, 5-1) intending to keep their winning streak alive at home! The sold-out crowd watched both teams battle it out, with Hughes prevailing 85-84 in an overtime thriller! 

The Hughes faithful felt like this could be a special night. The Big Red would relish at an opportunity to take down their conference rival. The moment didn't seem too big for Hughes as they stood toe-to-toe with the notoriously aggressive play of the Senators. The game started fast as Nekhi Smith, JR for Taft and Paul McMillan IV, FR for Hughes traded buckets on the first two possessions. As both teams found their rhythm, the lead switched hands a number of times before the Big Red went on an 8-4 run to end the quarter, led by AB Harouna, SR for Hughes. 

With the score favoring Hughes 22-18, the second quarter started with a huge corner three from Demarco Bradley Jr, SR for Taft. Cleveland Farmer, SR for Taft also contributed with some high energy plays including an acrobatic lay-in, however, Paul IV and the Big Red came back to go into the half-time break down 36-35.

The atmosphere intensified as both teams traded baskets, neither letting up. Chris'seon Stringer, SR for Taft nailed a couple threes to break things open momentarily. Kionte Thomas, JR for Hughes converted an and-one, followed by a half-court euro-step and three at the buzzer by Paul IV, and just like that, Hughes was back in it and ready for a dramatic finish. 

While leads continued to switch sides, neither team led by more than three points throughout the fourth frame, and with about 25 seconds left to play, Nekhi Smith tied the game with a pair of free throws. Hughes had a chance to win it in regulation, but a last-second, contested shot by AB Harouna JUST missed. 

In overtime, Taft came out swinging, establishing a lead after consecutive buckets. Hughes wouldn't give up. As the crowd got louder, the Big Red put the clamps down on defense and looked to McMillan to provide energy on the offensive end. Eventually, down 84-83, Hughes would bring the ball up the court. Cam McKenzie, SO for Hughes had the ball in his hands and drove to the bucket, where he was fouled in the process of shooting. With the game on the line, Cam calmly made two of the biggest free throws of the game, giving the Big Red a one-point lead with just 11 seconds to play! 

A tough lay-up attempt from Taft came up just short, in addition to the follow up at the buzzer, and once the buzzer went off the Hughes faithful went into a frenzy as they stormed the court to celebrate the big win! 

After the game, Hughes Head Coach, Bryan Wyant was asked about his reaction. "I can't script this any better", said Wyant. "We were confident, played hard and had a little luck on our side."

Story written by Theo Caldwell

Click here to see highlights and a recap of the game, courtesy of Fox19 and Joe Danneman!