Hughesville girls return to District 4 championship

MILTON — Four senior starters returned this season. Jade Cordrey was the newcomer. And what an addition she has become.

Cordrey has played her best basketball at the perfect time and her experienced teammates have done the same. Together, that group has carried Hughesville back to the District 4 Class AAA final. A program that before last year had never played for a district championship will do so again Saturday against Mount Carmel. What a run it has been.

Cordrey scored a career-high 18 points, Emily Akers added 14 and Hughesville played stifling defense Wednesday at Milton as it overwhelmed Bloomsburg, 51-28, in the district semifinals. The Spartans (16-8) blew out a second straight rival, clinched another state tournament berth and kept raising the bar for a program that made a major breakthrough last season.

“It’s different out there now. Since we got into the season more I’m getting used to how it’s going and I feel more comfortable,” Cordrey said. “They know how you can play and what you can do and it’s exciting to be part of. The seniors motivate me a lot and have helped me through everything.”

It shows. Cordrey has become a major difference-maker late this season and has scored 36 points in two playoff wins. She added five rebounds, three steals and two assists as Hughesville went on an 18-0 run that bridged the first and second quarters to build an 18-point halftime lead that was never threatened. Codrey scored 12 first-half points, drained two 3-pointers and repeatedly made big plays on both ends of the court as Hughesville dominated a team that had just upset top-seeded Wellsboro last Friday.

“Jade turned the corner. When we said we wanted to play those last three games against Southern, Mount Carmel and Lewisburg like they were the playoffs, that’s when she turned the switch on,” Hughesville coach Craig Weaver Sr. said. “She’s a gamer. She and all the kids come to play tremendously.”

That was evident from the opening tip last night. Hughesville picked up where it left off in a 25-point quarterfinal pounding of Warrior Run, squeezing the life out of Bloomsburg’s offense and efficiently working its offense. All five starters scored by early in the second quarter as Hughesville moved the ball well, forced 10 turnovers and held Bloomsburg scoreless for seven minutes at one point. Akers (14 points, 8 rebounds) hit two straight 3-pointers during the game-breaking 18-0 run while Codrey kept scoring, Kendra Smith (11 points, 4 assists) carved up the defense and both Alisha McKinley and Jayden Leighow hit the boards hard.

Hughesville completed a three-game sweep of Bloomsburg after doing the same to Warrior Run and led 44-17 after three quarters. The Spartans never let Bloomsburg get into a rhythm, forced 19 turnovers and surrendered just 10 field goals.

“We rely on our defense and if we’re up in their face it seems to just get our offense going,” Weaver said. “I took advice years ago when I was coaching at Loyalsock with Kenny Robbins. I asked him how do you continue winning and he said we worry about us, so that’s what we try to do. We try to do the best we can do and if it’s not good enough, it’s not good enough.”

It was plenty good enough against Bloomsburg as Hughesville won its fourth playoff game in the last two seasons. It has been a huge step forward for a program that had gone 10 years with a playoff win before last year’s breakthrough. Again, the Spartans are elevating their collective performance at the right time and have won two playoff games by 48 combined points.

Bloomsburg trailed just 8-7 late in the first quarter, but the Spartans swiftly started dropping the hammer in the second. Hughesville needed just 5 minutes, 20 seconds to mount its 18-0 run as every part of its offensive and defensive strategies came together. Four players scored during the run and Leighow, Cordrey and Smith finished with nine combined steals.

“We knew we couldn’t take them lightly and just had to come out and play our game,” Cordrey said. “The past two games we’ve really played well. We’ve played through everything and put everything together. If we come out as a team we can do anything.”

Now Hughesville has another shot at winning its first district championship. The Spartans lost to Mount Carmel in a hard-fought final and lost two close games during the regular season. But this is a different team now and Hughesville is embracing its chance.

“I am so, so glad that we have the opportunity to play for the district title again because the four seniors on the team absolutely deserve it,” Weaver said. “They’re not only great kids to coach, they’re also great individuals in the class room, in the community and are just all-around awesome kids.”

Hughesville (51)

Emily Akers 4 2-2 13, Jayden Leighow 1 0-2 2, Alisha McKinley 2 0-0 4, Kendra Smith 2 5-6 11, Jade Cordrey 5 7-18 18, Alex Snyder 0 0-0 0, Cierra Getz 0 0-0 0, Olivia Strothers 0 0-0 0, Maria Duff 0 0-0 0, Lauren Henry 1 1-2 3. Totals 15 14-19 51.

Bloomsburg (28)

Megan Haines 3 0-0 7, Rylee Klinger 5 0-0 10, Jaryn Bond 1 2-3 4, Kelsey Widom 0 3-6 3, Emily Pitonyak 0 0-2 0, Gabby Wittman 0 0-0 0, Ellen Hull 0 1-2 1, Haley Widom 1 1-2 3. Totals 10 7-15 28.

Hughesville 10 17 17 7–51

Bloomsburg 7 2 8 11–28

3-point goals: Hughesville 7 (Akers 3, Smith 2, Cordrey 2); Bloomsburg 1 (Haines 1).

Records: Hughesville (16-8), Bloomsburg (8-16).