by Rob Barrone | Correspondent
Hudson -- The only thing missing were chants of "Rudy, Rudy!"
At the end of this game, the Hudson High School student Sports rushed the court to celebrate the host boys hoops squad's 67-65 victory over Shaker Heights Jan. 25 at Ray "Buck" Hyser Gymnasium.
Hoisted above the students' shoulders and carried off the court was the "five foot-nothing, one hundred and nothing" hero Zack Brandy (officially listed at 6 feet, 160 pounds).
The senior guard and his Explorers' had just pulled off a stunning comeback win over the Red Raiders.
Trailing by five in the final minutes, Hudson (10-4) hit its final three shots from the floor and added a pair of crucial free throws down the stretch.
The comeback culminated with Brandy finishing off his career high 30-point night with a breakaway layup off a steal.
The winning score came with just 3.9 seconds to play with Shaker (10-4), which was ranked No. 11 in a recent Division I state poll, missing a shot at the buzzer that could have forced overtime.
"I would say that's probably the No. 1 win since I've been at Hudson and ranks right up there with the best I've ever had as a coach," Explorers' seventh-year head coach Jeff Brink said.
What made the Explorers' win even more impressive was Hudson was missing starting post player Ben Gedeon, who did not play because of a shoulder strain.
"With the adversity we were facing and playing one of the best teams in the state of Ohio, this was an opportunity to do something special together," Brink said. "I'm so proud of our guys."
Brandy led the charge most of the night and provided the game-winning play with help from John Zuccaro and Steve Boslet, who had 13 points. The pair teamed to pinch an attempted drive by a Shaker player and Brandy was there to scoop up the subsequent loose ball with about six ticks on the clock and an open court in front of him. However, Brandy didn't do it alone at the finish as fellow tri-captains, Alex Mushock and Boslet along with Kevin Zullo had key scores in the comeback run.
Shaker, leading most of the night, had a five-point lead (57-52) at the 5-minute, 41-second mark and opted to hold the ball for more than two minutes to bring Hudson out of its zone. The strategy backfired as it just shortened the game for the Explorers' comeback.
The comeback started with Zullo's only points of the night. Trailing 62-57, Brandy found Zullo open directly in front of the student Sports on the right wing. The junior buried the deep three at the 1:30 mark to make it a one-possession game (62-60) for the first time since mid-third quarter action. The Explorers were behind 39-29 at the half and 54-46 after three.
Two Shaker free throws (23-of-29 for the game) at the 1:10 mark made it a four-point bulge. Boslet then hit a triple from the top of the circle to close to one (64-63) with 58 seconds left. The Red Raiders made the first of a one-and-one with 40 seconds on the clock but missed the second. Mushock rebounded and was fouled. With the clock now at 39.3, Mushock hit both pressure-packed charity tosses to tie the game. Shaker held the ball for the last shot, but Brandy's pick and score turned the tables for a Hudson win.
"We were hitting our shots late in the second half," Boslet said. "We knew we had nothing to lose going against one of the best teams in northeastern Ohio. The fans coming out -- that was amazing. It was a moment I'll never, ever forget."
Mushock finished with 12 points and added a team-high six rebounds.
"That was something special; something I'll carry with me the rest of my life," Mushock said. "No one else takes us seriously, but everyone in that locker room understands what being a team is about. We believed in us and each other. This was probably the top win of my career -- in any sport."
Although he has been the team's leading scorer, Brandy knows he couldn't do it alone.
"We have three or four shooters on this team that can get hot at any moment and we had three or four of us hot [Jan. 25]," Brandy said. "Before the game, coach Brink said they [the Red Raiders] get a lot of pub. They have a big game Sunday and all we were worried about was [Jan. 25]. He said this is a win, if we could pull it off, we'll remember the rest of our lives. He was right on target with that statement."
Brink also praised his entire squad, of course starting with Brandy, who with his 30-point outburst, jumped two spots on the all-time scoring list to eighth with 873 career points.
"Zack is one of the best players I've ever coached," Brink said. "But you don't win games like this without getting contributions throughout the lineup. Derek Schwarz, Sam Wolanske and Colin Hogan gave us great minutes.
"Johnny Zuccaro had another solid game. Kevin Zullo came off the bench and bangs the huge three. Steve Boslet, in foul trouble in the first half -- if he doesn't step up in the second half, we don't pull it off. Mushock epitomizes what you want out of your kids: Give me everything you've got in the tank.
"In my 26-year coaching career, there is probably no time that I have been prouder of a group of guys and not just because we won. Because of the way they hung in there with the odds against them. What a great effort by our guys and the fans in the fourth quarter. I've got to give them props. The atmosphere and the energy with the student body is something the kids will remember 30 years from now."
The Explorers were scheduled to visit Medina to play Highland Jan. 29. Results were not available at press time.
They are set to visit Pepper Pike to play Orange Feb. 2 at 6:30 p.m.