PORT CHESTER – Elijah Hughes left Kennedy Catholic for prep school last summer already a surefire star. He had established himself as one of the CHSAA’s top players regardless of class and as maybe the best player in Westchester outside of Iona Prep’s Ty Jerome.
The 6-foot-5 East Carolina-bound player returned to the area for the reincarnation of the annual CYP Tournament and showed local fans what they had missed. He poured in 25 points on the strength of a dominant second half and High Major beat the Westchester/Harlem Jets 78-74 in the first annual Nick Ciccone/Pete Sinis High School All-Star Basketball Tournament at Our Lady of Mercy.
Hughes, a potential mid-major steal, more than lived up to his team’s presumptuous nickname. On a court surrounded by Division I-committed players and rising prospects, he stood out as the best.
“Everybody on this team is high major. Obviously,” Hughes joked. “‘High Major.’ But I was away getting better and it shows me I can compete with the best and play with the best.”
The Beacon resident, who departed Kennedy after one season, enrolled at South Kent in Connecticut late last summer. He worked hard on his academics to secure his eligibility for college. It was clear this week that he had honed his game at the same time.
With his team up by just two points to start the fourth quarter, Hughes took a break from attacking the rim and step back to sink three 3-pointers from the top of the key. Each one was deeper than the last.
“I just felt a little rhythm in the second half and just let it go,” he said. “It felt good, it went in. There was no answer for me.”
High Major — itself a reincarnation of Team Frenji, coached by Tom Sampogna — zoomed in front by eight points and maintained the lead despite a costly technical foul with 96 seconds remaining. Former Stepinac star Kylan Guerra was a key reason why. He scored all 14 of his points in the second half, including 5 for 5 at the line down the stretch. He also had a key steal in the final seconds.
The still-unsigned guard said he has received five Division II offers but is still committed to drumming up Division I interest. Guerra led the CHSAA ‘AA’ in scoring as a senior before spending a prep year at the Kent School.
“Every kid’s dream is to go D-I,” Guerra said. “Hopefully that’s what happens.
“I’m not in any sort of rush. I know me and my family have talked about it and we’re in a good situation right now. We’re going to keep doing what we can and pretty much me just keep getting better as a basketball player every day.”
Guerra earned all-tournament honors along with teammate Mamadou Diarra (nine points), a UConn commit. Christ the King’s Tyrone Cohen (16 points), a Holy Cross signee, and Teaneck (N.J.) sophomore Ja’Quaye James (29 points, six 3s) were both all-tournament for the Jets.