By Lannis Timmons
Hughes Big Red and the Taft Senators both entered the February 3 game leading the conference with 6-1 records, with Hughes at 15-2, and on a seven game winning streak, and Taft at 11-5.
Playing before a sold out crowd, the Senators defeated the Hughes Big Red 61-39.
Taft scored on their first four possessions, as coach Bradley ran a clear out play around the basket for junior Chris Stringer, as he scored Taft’s first 8 points as they went up by 10 points in the first two minutes by 12-2. Taft did a good job of staying in the gaps on defense making it difficult for Hughes to run their offensive sets. Derrick Heard added six points for the Senators, as they took the lead 20-7 at the end of the first quarter.
DJ Brewton was trying to keep the Big Red in striking distance as he scored 5 points in the first quarter. Hughes won their first meeting without Brewton. Taft kept running their half court sets getting the ball inside against the smaller Hughes post players.
Samassa Mahamdou did a good job controlling the paint for the Senators as he grabbed rebound after rebound, blocked two shots, and scored 5 points, but Heard and Stringer continued to put pressure on the Big Red’s defense, as Heard added 6 points and Stringer scored 4 points. Taft did a good job of keeping Hughes off the offensive glass, as Stringer and Mahamdou held the Big Red to one shot. Taft pushed their lead to 16 as they went into halftime leading 33-17.
The second half started off slow, as both teams were finding it hard to make a shot. Then Taft woke up, and went on a 6-0 run, and soon Taft was up 22 points at 39-17. The Senators got a lift from three-year starter and junior Demarco Bradley Jr. and junior DaShawn Lawrence. Bradley knocked down two 3-point goals, and scored. Lawrence added a lay up and two from the free throw line. Both teams traded baskets for the last minute, as Taft had the lead 48-27 at the end of the third quarter.
As the fourth quarter began, the Big Red’s Brewton and Giovanni Santiago scored five points each, but it wasn’t enough, as the Senators continued to keep the pressure on Hughes as Derrick Heard, who scored 6 points, and Bradley and Mahamdou scored 3 points each in the as the Senators cruised on in with the 61-39 win. Derrick Heard led the Senators with 18 points, while Stringer had 13 points. Hughes was able to get two players in double figures as DJ Brewton had 21 points, and Santiago finished with 11.
Taft and Hughes will be making it hard for teams come tournament time.