by Frank Aceto
Associate Sports Editor
Hudson -- A few weeks ago, the Hudson girls basketball team had to face a brutal six-game stretch that featured some of the better teams in the state.
It almost worked out perfectly.
The Lady Explorers won their fifth consecutive game after posting a 64-56 victory over Northeast Ohio Conference Valley Division rival Mentor Jan. 5 at Hudson High School's Ray "Buck" Hyser Gymnasium. Hudson also posted a convincing 71-51 win over Westlake Jan. 3 on the road.
Since Dec. 19, the Lady Explorers (10-2, 3-1) are 5-1 against teams that had no fewer than seven wins between them. Hudson's only loss was a 68-48 setback to two-time defending Division I state champion Twinsburg.
"Like we always say in the locker room, no game is a breather," Hudson head coach Dennis Lawler said.
The Lady Cardinals (7-4, 1-4) certainly weren't.
The Lady Explorers shot the ball considerably better than Mentor.
But the Lady Cardinals were able to stay in the game, thanks to their dominance on the boards.
Mentor had a 44-33 advantage on the glass. The Lady Cardinals also had 21 offensive rebounds, which led to 23 second-chance points.
It didn't help that one of Hudson's key post players, Allison Zullo, was on crutches at halftime after suffering a sprained ankle. Lawler said Zullo may miss the next two games.
"We got hammered," Lawler said. "This is not an excuse, but these things happen when you lose a player like Allison. It was probably our worst rebounding game and our worst free-throw shooting game of the season."
After a strong start, the Lady Explorers struggled at the line down the stretch. They canned 14-of-23 foul shots for the game.
Thankfully, Hudson had plenty of offense.
Three players scored in double digits for the Lady Explorers. Guard Jackie Ulmer led Hudson in scoring for the second straight game with 20 points. Forward Hannah Boesinger added 15 points, 13 rebounds, nine assists, six assists and six blocks and point guard Kelly Gough finished with 13 points for the Lady Explorers.
Ulmer did most of her scoring on jump shots.
"Jackie has been playing well," Lawler said. "We needed to have her this year and she has stepped up. Kelly Gough also stepped up."
It didn't seem like Hudson would have any trouble after the first 90 seconds.
The Lady Explorers, thanks to their suffocating full-court pressure and trapping, jumped out to an 8-0 lead.
But the Lady Cardinals recovered quickly.
They countered with a 15-3 run spurt, thanks to their presence inside. Once again, Hudson regrouped and finished the first quarter with an 11-0 run to take a 22-15 lead.
Although the Lady Explorers never trailed again and led by as many as 13 (47-34) late in the third quarter, Mentor had a knack for making the home fans a little nervous. Senior guard/forward Courtney Schutz led the Lady Cardinals with 15 points.
"Mentor is a good team," Lawler said. "They're one of the toughest 7-4, 1-4 teams around. We knew it was going to be a tough battle. I was proud of the girls for finding a way to win."
Hudson also posted a 52-45 victory in the junior varsity contest. Ally Prosser led the Lady Explorers with 11 points and Hannah Monsman added nine points. Hudson also posted a commanding 51-21 win in the freshmen contest to improve to 7-0.
Against Westlake, Ulmer led the Lady Explorers with 17 points and Boesinger and Zullo each had 15 points. Zullo also had nine rebounds, six assists and five steals and Boesinger added nine rebounds. Hudson scored a 39-33 win in the JV game.
The Lady Explorers are scheduled to visit Parma Heights Normandy Jan. 9 at 7:30 p.m. They are set to entertain Austintown Fitch Jan. 12 at 2:30 p.m.