Hughes leads Point Boro to tourney win

Hughes leads Point Boro to tourney win

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Hughes leads Point Boro to tourney win

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TOMS RIVER – Since the current seniors arrived on campus in the fall of 2009, the knock on the Point Boro girls basketball team has been consistent. The Panthers are very talented, capable of winning NJSIAA sectional titles and will put a scare into the very good Shore Conference teams, but may not have the horses to take out the top Shore Conference teams.

The unquestioned leader of these Point Boro seniors, Kelly Hughes, has indicated more than once that she will do everything in her power to change those perceptions. Her effort in Sunday’s WOBM Christmas Classic championship game was a good start.

The Tournament MVP and Boston College recruit scored a game-high 27 points, including seven points in a key 9-2 stretch in the fourth quarter that iced the game, as the top-seeded Panthers closed out No. 2 seed and eight-time WOBM champion Rumson-Fair Haven, 61-52, at Pine Belt Arena on the campus of Toms River High School North.

The WOBM win is the first for the Panthers (7-0), who are ranked No. 2 in the Asbury Park Press Top 10, after advancing to the final in 2010 and advancing back to the semifinals in 2011.

“I think we showed, right now, that we can get over the hump,” Hughes said. “Rumson, they’re a fabulous team, and we knew we were going to have to play a near-perfect game to beat them. It was nip-and-tuck, possession after possession, and we were just got the lucky end of the draw. We played our hearts out, so did they, but we were just able to finish more plays than they did.”

With the result hanging in the balance as Point Boro took a 48-45 lead to the fourth quarter, Hughes, who registered her 2,000th point on Friday night in the semifinals, took control.

Two Hughes’ free throws were followed immediately by her making a steal deep in the backcourt off the Point Boro press. She turned the steal into a layup for a 52-47 lead.

Emma Miller laid the ball in down the other end for Rumson to cut the deficit to 52-49, but Hughes came right back and nailed her only 3-pointer of the game, a bomb from the left wing with 4:15 to play to extend the lead back to seven at 56-49. An offensive rebound and follow from sophomore guard Lindsey Havens capped the 9-2 run and made it 56-49.

Hughes let out a scream as she trotted back down court after the trey, which didn’t quite end the game, but was certainly a blow to any hopes the Bulldogs (4-2) had of stealing the game.

“As a senior and as the leader of the team, I knew I had to step up,” Hughes said. “If we needed a rebound, a shot, whatever, I wanted to have ball in my hands, take initiative and I think I did just that.”

Hughes took a while to get going in the first quarter of a game that saw Rumson looking to get up and down, with Point Boro more than willing to do the same. Over the first quarter and a half, there were six ties and neither team led by more than two points.

Before Hughes got going, Havens had seven first-quarter points as Point Boro jumped out to an 11-7 lead and trailed just 17-16 after one.

Once Hughes finally picked it up, she scored the last eight Panthers points of the first half to give them a 35-29 lead going to the locker room. Of those eight points, four of them came on layups after she hauled in a home-run pass off the press-break.

“I know if I’m starting off slow, or I’m not making shots, I know my teammates will be there to pick me up,” Hughes said. “I just gotta make sure I finish out the game. If they help me out in the beginning, I’ll help them out in the end.”

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