by Rob Barrone | Correspondent
Youngstown -- They were calling it "The Battle for the Border."
In all, 22 teams competed in the two-day event over Martin Luther King Day weekend at the Covelli Centre in Youngstown.
The official name of the event was much longer:
The second annual "Lariccia's See Them Rise High School Basketball Showcase." Teams included a handful of Pennsylvania schools, Youngstown schools along with Western Reserve Academy and Twinsburg.
The Hudson boys team earned a 52-48 win over a talented Youngstown East squad Jan. 21.
Steve Boslet, who finished with a team-high 17 points, provided big plays on both ends of the court down the stretch just when the Panthers seemed ready to snatch momentum and a victory.
A six-point Explorers' lead early in the fourth quarter vanished. East's Terrell McClain hit a trio of three-pointers and scored all of his 12 points in a span of 4 minutes, 39 seconds in the fourth quarter to erase Hudson's advantage.
With the Explorers trailing 48-47, Boslet answered the call, hitting a three from the left corner off a pass from John Zuccaro (six points and five assists) with 2:11 to play for a 50-48 edge.
Zuccaro's steal moments later had the Explorers running down the clock only to see a traveling call with 30.6 seconds left give the Panthers new life.
Boslet ended that threat, stealing the ball back with 15 seconds to play.
Fouled at the 8.4-second mark, the 6-foot-3 guard swished both ends of the game's lone one-and-one situation to ice the win.
Hudson couldn't have asked for a better choice to close out the win at the line. Boslet leads the team with an 86.7 percentage from the stripe (26-of-30).
"I was really nervous going into those free throws, especially after a time-out [by the Panthers]," Boslet said. "Getting all that time to think about it and knowing that if I miss it, they had a chance to get it into overtime. But my guys were saying, 'Just like practice: Go out there and make it.' That really gave me the confidence."
East struggled to bring the ball up court after Boslet's foul shots and air-balled a three as time expired.
"This was a good, scrappy win on the road against a very good team," Explorers head coach Jeff Brink said. "They beat Brush by twenty-something earlier this year [80-60 Dec. 4].
"To come here to Youngstown and get a win, it was great gut check. Steve Boslet had a super game. His free throws at the end were clutch. And Zack Brandy was Brandy as he always is."
Brandy finished with 16 points and pulled down a team-high six rebounds.
Hudson won without the services of Ben Gedeon.
The senior injured his shoulder diving for a loose ball in the previous outing and was replaced in the starting lineup by Colin Hogan.
The stat line won't do Hogan justice for his efforts.
The 6-5 senior ended with two points and five rebounds, but he helped thwart the Panthers' inside attack along with Derek Schwarz and Sam Wolanske.
"When Ben's out or in foul trouble, we always need someone to step up and Hogan really filled that role along with Derek and some of our other post guys," Brandy said. "They really stepped up."
From the outset, the contest became physical. Just eight fouls through were called through three quarters and 18 for the game. Despite full-court pressure, the first quarter ended with zero fouls and zero turnovers by East.
Still, the Explorers were able to take a 16-12 lead at the first stop as Brandy (seven points) and Boslet (five) came out hitting their shots.
East turned up the pressure in the second stanza but picked up just one foul on defense in that quarter. East opened the period with a 10-2 spurt and led 24-22 at the half.
"We knew they would press us," Brandy said. "In practice, we had seven guys on defense.
"We had our hiccups at times, but overall, we really came together in the fourth quarter and handled their pressure pretty well."
"We knew they were going to be athletic, fast and get in our grill," Boslet said. "We had to handle their pressure and we did. We created a lot of easy buckets in the second half. That was a key to the win."
The Explorers took control early in the second half. After falling behind 29-24, Hudson went on a 12-0 run to take its biggest lead.
Boslet opened the run with a three and Brandy added seven in the surge.
A key bucket was scored by Hogan on a heads-up effort by Alex Mushock (six points and a career-high six assists).
Mushock's pass attempt inside was deflected and was ready to be picked off by East when the 6-2 senior alertly volleyball-tipped the ball ahead to the wide-open Hogan for an easy layup.
The Explorers' 38-32 lead after three disappeared when McClain got hot in the fourth quarter but with Mitch Guadagni (five points) shutting the East scorer down and Zuccaro scoring three times on layups, Hudson stayed close for Boslet's heroics.
"It was fun coming out here with the environment even though we didn't have too many fans," Boslet said. "Playing in an arena like this is always fun."
The Explorers were scheduled to entertain Shaker Heights Jan. 25. Results were not available at press time.
They are set to visit Highland Jan. 29 in Medina.
Varsity tip-off is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.