by Rob Barrone | Correspondent
Hudson — High school basketball in March is often the best you’ll see. Basketball in November?
Not so much.
When the Hudson and Nordonia boys basketball squads met on the hard court Nov. 30 at Hudson High School’s Ray “Buck” Hyser Gymnasium, nobody should have expected a top-notch performance.
In typical season-opening fashion, the two played a somewhat sloppy contest where defenses had the edge.
In the end, the Knights defense, which forced 22 turnovers (to 16 miscues of their own), was the difference as Nordonia prevailed by a 67-58 count.
Both clubs have reasons for the less than par efforts as both schools’ football teams advanced to the Division I playoffs.
Coming off an 18-4 hoops’ campaign last season with only a handful of returnees, the Knights featured a number of inexperienced underclassmen.
Meanwhile, the Explorers had nearly everyone back from a 13-9 team.
But Hudson had four starters fresh off a second-round run in the gridiron state tournament.
“We’re not going to make excuses,” Hudson head coach Jeff Brink said. “We have to play better basketball and take better care of the ball. We made some poor decisions, but you have to give them [the Knights’] credit for creating some of those bad decisions.”
On the defensive side, Nordonia came away with 16 steals on the night. It was two of those pilfers by senior guard Nick Piotrowski (13 points and five steals) that were key in a 40-29 second-half surge that brought the Knights back from a 29-27 halftime deficit.
Piotrowski’s third steal of the night came on Hudson’s first second-half possession and helped his club regain the lead and then his fifth swipe late in (1 minute, 29 seconds to play with the Knights up 62-56) kept the Explorers at bay when they were poised for a late comeback.
“I thought the turnovers right out of the gates in the third quarter were key to turning the momentum, Brink noted.
Alex Alders, a 6-foot-1 guard, led Nordonia with 22 points. He converted 8-of-15 shots from the floor and 4-of-7 shots from the foul line. Alders also made a trio of three-pointers.
Alders’ teammate, Chris Scott, hit 6-of-8 field goals and 4-of-6 at the line for 16 points. The 6-6 senior also grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds and swatted away six shots.
On the other side of the court, third-year starting guard Zack Brandy led Hudson with 20 points. He made 8-of-20 shots from the floor and pulled down a team-high nine rebounds. John Zuccaro and Steve Boslet each had nine points apiece for the Explorers. Boslet made 5-of-6 foul shots.
“We didn’t do enough to help Zack,” Brink said. “We need production across the board so Zack doesn’t have to make every play.”
Hudson took a 14-8 lead late in the first quarter before Alders’ found his stroke.
Alders scored eight points in a 22-second span to give the Knights an 18-16 lead heading into the second quarter. The Explorers led 29-27 at halftime.
When Scott, scored on a putback to put Nordonia ahead 33-31, the Knights never lost their advantage the rest of the way.
Alders made three consecutive baskets to give Nordonia 43-32 lead late in the third period and the Knights never looked back.
Hudson is scheduled to visit Northeast Ohio Conference rival Parma Dec. 7 at 7:30 p.m.