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Portage girls defeat West Shamokin as Hudak records 300th win

Jan. 18—PORTAGE, Pa. — Throughout his 22 years at the helm of the Portage Lady Mustangs, Lance Hudak has experienced a multitude of ups and downs that started with a one-win team in 2002-03.

Since then, the veteran coach has developed the Portage girls basketball program into one of the most consistent front-runners in District 6, as Hudak was rewarded with another personal milestone on Wednesday night.

The Mustangs cruised by Heritage Conference opponent West Shamokin 62-26 inside Len Chappell Gymnasium, giving Hudak his 300th career coaching victory.

"It's so gratifying just knowing all of the hard work that so many people have done to get it to this point," Hudak said. "The coaching aspect of it, it's been developing these girls from within, learning our system, and getting better and better at it. Because of all that is what you saw tonight and what got me here."

Hudak took over a struggling program prior to the 2002-03 season, and finished his first two campaigns with a combined 2-44 record, recording one win each year.

After eight consecutive losing seasons to start Hudak's tenure, the Mustangs finally got over the hump and produced a 14-10 mark in 2010-11.

Since then, Portage has recorded 14 seasons with a winning record.

"We've played in a lot of big games in the last 14 years, and a lot of those games have resulted in losses," Hudak said. "But to see the hundreds and hundreds of Portage people at those games, the sea of kelly green and white, and the joy it brought our community, those are some of the greatest memories for me.

"We've had some great victories and we've had some tough losses, but it's all part of coaching. It's all part of the development of the program."

Hudak has guided the Mustangs to two District 6 championships (2020 and 2022) and three runner-up finishes in 2013, 2014 and 2021. Portage also claimed three WestPAC titles in 2013, 2014 and 2020.

The highest of all, the Mustangs reached the PIAA semifinal in 2015 and 2022, with the latter coming from a Cinderella squad that lost three starters due to injury earlier that season.

"I honestly remember when he got his 200th win, and I knew I wanted to be a part of one of his milestones," said Ashlyn Hudak, a Mustangs senior and the youngest of Lance's three daughters. "We've been to the final four and we've gotten a district championship.

"This is just another thing to add to his list of accomplishments, and hopefully it's the Heritage championship next."

Ashlyn Hudak's two older sisters, Lauren and Maddy, had also previously played for their father before graduating from Portage in 2017 and 2023, respectively.

Now a senior, Ashlyn Hudak first got involved with the varsity program by watching practice when she was still in elementary school.

"I've always looked up to those girls," Ashlyn Hudak said.

"I still remember half of them by name. I loved their work ethic, and I wanted to play like Olivia McCabe and Emily Chobany. That's how I knew this senior year was going to be special, because we wanted to follow in their footsteps and be like them."

While all five of Portage's seniors comprise the starting lineup, each are also coached by Lance Hudak in either cross country, track and field, or both.

"Lance has been our coach since we were little," Mustangs senior Cami Burkett said. "The five seniors on our team have been together since we were in kindergarten playing under him. We all have that connection and chemistry because of Lance.

"We honestly couldn't ask for a better coach."

Ashlyn Hudak went 5-for-5 from 3-point range in the first half to produce her game-high 15 points, as the Mustangs led 44-14 at halftime and played the second half with a running clock.

Jenna Burkett tallied 12 for Portage, while Britton Myher added 10.

Portage improved its record to 15-1 after rebounding from its first loss of the season against River Valley last Thursday. The Mustangs have their sights set on their first Heritage Conference championship after being knocked out in the semifinals last year.

"It was honestly my daughter that reminded me of this a couple weeks ago," Lance Hudak said. "I don't do this for self-notoriety, it's for girls basketball at Portage and our community. We're happy with the start we had, and we have some lofty goals set. We're going to give it our all."