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Carson Hughes had a sure-fire approach to the start of Hope Academy’s Class 1A showdown with Luther North. Start out aggressive and never look back.
The junior Eagles guard scored a season-high 26 points to power the Eagles to a 57-35 win over the host Wildcats in the Luther North Regional final Friday night.
Hughes converted 13-13 at the free throw line and drilled two three-pointers to lead the Eagles into the Mooseheart Sectional Tuesday against Newark. He scored 16 of his points in the second half to blow the game open.
“The coaches talked to me during school about being aggressive,” Hughes said. “I thought with my being a captain, a leader of the team, if I came out ready to play and show what I could do, the rest of the team would follow my lead.”
Hughes scored the game’s opening six points as Hope Academy (12-16) ran out the gate with an 8-0 flourish. Junior Eagles’ star forward Ricky Calvin Jr., who had 35 points in a regional semifinal upset of top-seed St. Benedict, posted a double-double with 13 points and 13 rebounds. He added four blocked shots.
“With Hope, you pick your poison,” Luther North coach Jason Tucker said. “We were concentrated on stopping Calvin Jr., but No. 2 (Hughes) was great. He really exploited us.” Hughes and Calvin combined for 16 points in the first half in propelling the Eagles to a 26-13 lead at the break.
Luther North (12-16) mounted one impressive run in the third quarter, recording consecutive steals it converted into layups for a 7-0 burst that cut the deficit to 29-20. Hughes scored nine points in the third quarter to help reverse the Wildcats’ momentum. “Some of our guards had trouble with the ball, but we had to start attacking the basket there and not settle for jump shots,” Hughes said.
His final basket, a three-pointer, provided the largest lead of the night at 23 points. Guards Armando Sacluti and Alejandra Munoz added six points.
“We are not used to dealing with that kind of pressure,” Tucker said. “We are young, we started two freshmen and a sophomore, so our future is bright.”
Freshman forward Steven Zanders and junior forward Nathan Kurtz scored eight points apiece to lead the Wildcats.