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Deep rotation helped Spartans earn win

HUGHESVILLE — Seconds after checking into the game, Steele Evangelisti attacked the basket and scored inside. He then turned defensive, making a first-quarter steal near midcourt and converting a layup. In the blink of an eye, Hughesville took a lead it never relinquished and immediately made something clear.

This Spartan bench is mighty strong.

Hughesville might not have played its most dynamic game Wednesday against Northwest, but a rotation that went 10-deep gave the Rangers fits all night. The strength in numbers took a toll and played a major role in Hughesville pulling away for a 48-30 win in its home opener. The Spartans (3-0) remained undefeated as Evangelisti, Garrett Boyer, Ethan Snyder and Anthony Machi all made strong contributions. Freshman starting center Carter Cowburn scored 14 points and forward Blake Sherwood (10 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists) showcased his versatility as Hughesville looked like a team which was featuring two starting lineups.

“We have a lot of guys from ninth grade through 12th and that gives us a lot of depth,” Evangelisiti said after scoring six points and making two steals. “Bringing in the second team really isn’t like bringing in a second team.”

“We can put them out there and it’s like we have the same people out there,” Sherwood said. “There’s no drop off.”

The added positive for Hughesville is that the bench, like the team itself, remains a work in process. The rotation could expand as the season progresses. Either way, the Spartans can go deep each game and possess players who can make impacts in different ways. Last night, the reserves combined for 17 points, 13 rebounds and six steals. The value those reserves provide, however, goes beyond statistics.

Coach Nick Tagliaferri is able to put different players on opponents’ top players while trying to contain them. The depth also means that his starters can go full blast when they are on the court, knowing they have teammates who can spell them and sustain or increase momentum. That played a major part in Hughesville slowing down explosive guards Walker Yaple and Matt Saxe. Those two combined for 22 points and earned them the hard way, shooting a combined 9 for 25 from the field. They also were limited to five second-half points as Hughesville took over and pushed a nine-point lead to as many as 22 at one point.

“We knew if we could contain those two we’d be in good shape,” Evangelisti said. “They got a few easy ones we didn’t want to get and we’ll have to look back on that and fix it.”

“Our first eight is really strong. Garrett is legitimately a starter, Steele is legitimately a starter when he’s engaged and Ethan Snyder (5 rebounds) brings a lot to the table,” Tagliaferri said. “I’m really happy with our first eight and we have a couple of guys fighting at the 9-10 spot. I feel comfortable with maybe even 12. We have some other guys with some upside I like. Depth-wise we rival some of our groups of the past, but it’s important that our alpha dogs carry themselves that way on a consistent basis, too.”

Sherwood is one of those players and combined with the reserves to provide an early spark. Sherwood scored seven first-quarter points as Hughesville built a 13-11 lead. Boyer drained consecutive second-quarter 3-pointers and the Spartans took a nine-point halftime lead before they went inside to start breaking things open in the third quarter.

The defense and depth stood out last night and Hughesville surrendered just 19 points over the final three quarters. But even on a night when the offense struggled to finish, the Spartans also revealed how dangerous they could become if they remain as balanced as they have been through three games. Hughesville has produced five different double-digit scorers, beating two 2019 state qualifiers as well as overcoming adversity in Monday’s road win against Troy.

Opponents cannot game plan around slowing one or two players because Hughesville features several weapons as well as different ways to attack. Cowburn has only played three high school games but looks like someone who could be quite a difference-maker inside and he scored 12 second-half points, including eight in the third quarter when Hughesville stretched its nine-point lead to 19. During that time the Spartans made first six straight shots while efficiently moving the basketball. Nick Trevouledes, who played excellent defense, combined with Sherwood to deal five assists that quarter.

Different players scored in bursts at different times. Defensive stopper Justus Leighow and Clayton Poust (5 rebounds) were among the team’s leading scorers the first two games, but were slowed last night. That did not slow the Hughesville offense. Six players scored in the first two quarters and Hughesville connected on three second-quarter 3-pointers as it started gaining some breathing room. There is a long way to go and much work to be done, but a calling card of past standout Hughesville teams has been balance and this team looks like it could share that trait throughout the season.

“This summer our younger guys were involved so much with our older guys. They went everywhere with us,” Sherwood said. “Getting all that experience this summer is helping so much in the season.”

“Out of that upper crust 9-10 guys I feel like everyone is capable of getting somewhere between 8-12 points and we kind of always done it like that balance wise,” Tagliaferri said. “The other two games we showed a really good balance of transition, half-court off the dribble stuff and shooting the ball little bit. We have kind of a versatile offense that way.”

NORTHWEST (30)

Matthew Saxe 3 0-0 9, Walker Yaple 6 0-0 13, Chase Bitler 0 1-2 1, Alex Kupko 1 0-0 3, Matt Pierontoni 0 1-2 1, Gary McLendon 1 0-0 3, Landon Hufford 0 0-0 0. Totals 11 2-4 30.

HUGHESVILLE (48)

Blake Sherwood 3 0-2 10, Clayton Poust 0 1-2 1, Justus Leighow 0 0-2 0, Garrett Boyer 3 0-0 8, Nick Trevouledes 3 0-2 6, Steele Evangelisti 3 0-0 6, Ethan Snyder 0 0-0 0, Drew Bieber 0 0-0 0, Anthony Machi 0 1-2 1, Carter Cowburn 6 2-6 14, Colton Kilgore 1 0-0 2. Totals 20 4-16 48.

Northwest 11 7 6 6–30

Hughesville 13 14 14 7–48

3-point goals: Northwest 6 (Saxe, Yaple, Kupko, McLendon); Hughesville 4 (Sherwood 2, Boyer 2).

JV score: Hughesville 47-18

Records: Hughesville (3-0), Northwest (1-1)

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