Ask Kelly Hughes the numbers that’s she most proud of over the course of her illustrious four-year run at Point Pleasant Boro and you’ll wonder if math is her strong suit.
Seventy-seven is far greater than 2,010 in the mind of the 5-10 senior guard, whose team-oriented approach is a much more attractive trait than her lethal scoring touch. The former is the number of victories Hughes has had a significant hand it collecting over the last four years while elevating Point Pleasant Boro onto the statewide scene.
However, the latter was what drew a large gathering of family and friends to the Pine Belt Arena on Friday night for Point Pleasant Boro’s showdown with defending champion Manasquan in the semifinals of the WOBM Christmas Classic. They came to witness Hughes become just the 90th player in New Jersey girls basketball history to reach the 2,000-point mark and she didn’t disappoint. But, how she accomplished the feat provided insight into what makes the Boston College recruit such an asset to the Panthers.
“She is a team player. Winning the game is always more important to her than personal accomplishments,” said her twin sister and backcourt partner Lauren. “That’s the best thing about her. She doesn’t let those kind of things go to her head. She honestly didn’t bring it up. Everything is about the team. She’s not worried about the personal stuff.”
Hughes is accustom to dealing with gimmick defenses designed to curtail her point production so when Manasquan employed sophomore Courtney Hagaman to face guard her, she didn’t flinch a bit. It’s that poise and patience under such persistent pressure that’s exactly the reason she joins such esteemed company, becoming just the seventh player from the Shore Conference to attain the mark.
“A lot of players would get frustrated but she just works harder,” Point Pleasant Boro coach Dave Drew said. “We try to set better screens to get her looks but she just keeps working through it.”
Hughes entered the game 13 points shy of the magical milestone and reached it fittingly enough, at the foul line where she has been money throughout the course of her career. With 4:09 showing in the third, Hughes drew a foul on a drive and coolly knocked down the first of her two free throws to reach the prestigious plateau.
“It’s an accomplishment that I wouldn’t have been able to achieve without my teammates, my sister, my coaches and my family” Hughes said. “I view it, even though it’s an individual accomplishment, as a team accolade because, without them, it wouldn’t have been possible.”
Hughes finished with 23 points, stamped by a 16 for 18 showing at the line, to aid Point Pleasant Boro, No. 3 in the MSG Varsity New Jersey Top 15, to a 59-46 triumph over Manasquan. While the celebration following the historic foul shots was genuinely appreciated and line of post-game well wishers was happily received, rest assured, Hughes didn’t take long to store the moment in her memory banks to clear space to concentrate on a date with No. 4 Rumson at 5:30 on Sunday for the tournament championship.
With her career sum standing at 2,010, Hughes is closing in on the school record of 2,190 set by U.S. national women’s soccer captain Christie (Pearce) Rampone as well as the Shore Conference mark of 2,534 set by Shore Regional’s Patti Delehanty. Yet, none of that would trump helping the Panthers to a fourth NJSIAA sectional title.
Hughes admitted she did think about reaching 2,000 points, but, as is her mentality, only to the sense of accommodating.
“My brother, whose a freshman at Boston College, told me before the season started to make sure he’s home when you get your 2,000th,” Hughes said. “I wanted to get it over Christmas break so he could see it.”
Gregg Lerner covers girls basketball for MSG Varsity. Follow him on Twitter: @gregglerner