KETTERING, Ohio – Hughes High School won’t soon forget this boys’ basketball season.
Whether it was their memorable games on the court, being on the honor roll or exhibiting leadership among their peers, this Big Red team will be remembered for their character and work ethic.
It was more than basketball.
“I’m just proud of them,” Hughes coach Bryan Wyant said. “They put in a lot of work. It’s tough.”
Wyant’s voiced trailed off.
He won’t forget the time and sacrifice of each of the players and coaches. The five seniors trusted the process. That paid dividends this winter.
“I think they left the place better than they found it,” Hughes Athletic Director Jolinda Miller said. “But, they also helped instill the culture into our younger players.”
Although Trotwood-Madison defeated Hughes 84-74 in a Division II regional final at Trent Arena Saturday afternoon, it doesn’t define what Hughes accomplished. Saturday was the first regional final appearance for Hughes since 1955, according to Miller.
Hughes (24-4) was trying to reach the state tournament for the first time since 1955 when it was a state runner-up to Zanesville at the Cincinnati Gardens.
This week marked the first regional tournament for Hughes since 2013 when it lost to Dayton Dunbar.
Trotwood-Madison (25-3), ranked No. 5 in the season’s final Associated Press state poll, plays unranked Meadowbrook (22-6) in a Division II state semifinal at 10:45 a.m. Friday at the Schottenstein Center in Columbus.
Trotwood senior Myles Belyeu had 24 points to lead the Rams. Junior Amari Davis had 18 points and Carl Blanton had 17.
Hughes trailed Trotwood-Madison 41-22 at halftime Saturday. But, the Big Red didn’t lose without a fight. The tenacity was palpable.
The energy in the second half brought the Hughes crowd to its feet multiple times.
The support was significant. Hughes had several alumni from the 1950s through 1970s attend regional tournament games in Kettering.
The Big Red fed off that energy in the fourth quarter. It didn’t despair despite a large first-half deficit.
Hughes cut the deficit to eight points with 1:28, but the Rams made their free throws down the stretch.
Hughes was led by senior guard DJ Brewton (20 points), senior guard Giovanni Santiago (20 points), senior guard AJ Smith (18 points) and senior forward Shawn Hawkins (11 points).
“They are my guys for life,” Smith said of his teammates. “We built a bond that can never be broken. It shows on the floor.”
Smith said the biggest moment of the season was a day after a 61-39 loss at Taft Feb. 2. The team collected itself and had a renewed focus to earn nine consecutive wins leading up to Saturday.
The season included many highlights. Hughes not only won a district title, but the Big Red haven’t lost at home in 2 ½ years. It won three games during a memorable Florida trip in late December.
Whether players are from Avondale, Westwood or Hartwell, Miller said the culture was always present in the building and in games.
“Just the fact that everybody has bought in and what Hughes basketball was and what it is now – that’s what is memorable for me,” Wyant said.
The Big Red continues to build upon a foundation that is very strong.
“This is another bump in the road,” Smith said. “It ain’t over yet.”