Injury to teammate gives Derry boys basketball added incentive

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Thursday, December 26, 2019 | 9:23 PM


Derry started the season with one win in its first five games, so the Trojans needed a victory a week ago in their Section 1-4A opener.

What they didn’t need was a devastating and potentially season-changing injury to their one of their best players.

Tears were shed and many emotions felt when senior guard Justin Huss came crashing to the far baseline, silencing a rowdy crowd late in the second quarter.

Huss suffered a broken right leg when he landed awkwardly while chasing after a rebound.

Unthinkably, Huss had to deal with the same injury to his left leg last summer, and it cost him most of his junior football season.

While he came back and became one of the top running backs and safeties in the WPIAL this past season while playing with a steel plate and six screws in his leg, Huss will miss the rest of the basketball season as he rehabs from his latest setback.

Derry is saddened by the injury, but the Trojans (2-5, 1-0) are trying to move forward and dedicate their play to No. 21 with a lengthy and challenging schedule ahead of them.

“It was tough seeing Justin down on the court,” said Derry senior guard Tanner Nicely, who had 23 points in Friday’s 59-57 win over visiting Freeport. “He’s one of our brothers, and you never want to see something like that happen. I hope he has a speedy recovery. We need to regroup and have the next-man-up mentality, and play with a chip on our shoulder for the rest of the season.”

Derry won the game in dramatic fashion. Sophomore guard Tyson Webb made two free throws with four-tenths of a second remaining.

“Honestly, there aren’t a lot of words to describe it,” Derry senior guard Aidan Bushey said of Huss’ injury. “It was tough. I cried when I was sitting there next to him. and then after the game in the team room. I cried even more. Seeing what he’s gone through from last year and everything he’s achieved, I’m so upset for him.”

Bushey said he, Nicely and Huss are close friends.

“He’s been one of our best friends since fourth grade and to not have him out there with us our senior year,” Bushey said, “it’s so disappointing.”

Huss, who fractured his tibia and fibula, has faith in his teammates.

“I think the team will be good,” he said. “I think they will focus on what needs to be done. The other captains, Tanner Nicely and Aidan Bushey, will get the team ready for the reminder of the season.”

In the first game following the setback, Derry went back-and-forth with Connellsville before falling, 91-73.

Bushey scored 29, and Nicely added 21.

Derry went to a dribble-drive offense this season and planned to speed up play and shoot a lot of 3-pointers. Teams that use that style do so because they have players who can play that way.

Huss was one of them.

“You hate to see something like this happen to anyone, let alone someone like Justin, who has been through this before,” Derry coach Tom Esposito said. “He is such a hard worker and a great teammate. It’s time for our guys to refocus.”

Huss is one of top scorers for the Trojans. He had a 22-point game in a 55-54 loss to South Park.

“For the team, it’s a big gut-check time to see how much heart we have,” Bushey said. “Everyone stepped up (last) Friday night. It’s just going to be more of a grind every single night. Our coaching staff will prepare us every night, and we’ll be ready to go. Everyone of us are playing for Justin now, so I think it all means a little more.”

Derry will play in the Richland holiday tournament Friday and Saturday in Johnstown. The Trojans open against Homer-Center at 3:30 p.m. Friday.

Esposito used to coach at Homer-Center.

Last year, Derry registered its first winning season since 2001 and made the WPIAL playoffs for the first time since 2007-08.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at bbeckner@tribweb.com or via Twitter .

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