by Frank Aceto
Associate Sports Editor
Twinsburg -- A certain contest between two rivals could possibly be a preview of a district final a few weeks from now.
If that's the case, that playoff showdown could turn out to be major mismatch.
The Hudson girls basketball team dropped its second consecutive game after losing a commanding 72-41 decision to Twinsburg Feb. 9 on the road.
With the win, the two-time defending Division I state champion Lady Tigers improved to 21-0 overall and 9-0 in the Northeast Ohio Conference Valley Division. The Lady Explorers fell to 17-4 overall and 6-3 in the division.
Both teams are scheduled to play their sectional-district tournament games at Ellet High School. Twinsburg is the top seed and Hudson received the second seed. If both teams win out, they will meet again in the district title game.
If that's the case, the Lady Explorers, who lost a convincing 68-48 decision to the Lady Tigers earlier in the season, will be considered humongous underdogs.
"We have got to find a way to get over that hump," Hudson head coach Dennis Lawler said. "I thought we played hard.
"We just have to be a little bit smarter and more physical. I take responsibility for that and it's my job to make this team better."
As for the opponent, it's hard to imagine Twinsburg getting any better.
But the Lady Tigers may have needed a little bit of motivation after another Valley Division rival proved to be somewhat of a chink in Twinsburg's armor.
One week earlier, the Lady Tigers earned a come-from-behind 54-48 victory over Solon on the road. Twinsburg scored the final six points of the game to put the pesky Comets away.
The Lady Tigers needed no such late-game theatrics against the Lady Explorers.
Twinsburg, thanks to its vaunted full-court pressure, scored the first 13 points of the game and never looked back.
"That was probably the best we've played in awhile," Lady Tigers head coach Julie Solis said. "It's a good time to play our best basketball -- right before the tournament."
Hudson simply had no solutions for Twinsburg's guards.
Not surprisingly, the most daunting backcourt standout was 5-foot-9 senior Ashley Morrissette, a Purdue (Ind.) University recruit.
The last time these two teams met, Morrissette had a knack for making one highlight play after another.
While Morrissette didn't disappoint when it came to making heads turn, her domination proved to be more subtle than spectacular in the first 16 minutes.
She scored 15 of her game-high 23 points in the first half by knocking down open jumpers or finishing easy layups on fast breaks.
Once the two teams returned from the locker room, Morrissette kept her bag of tricks handy.
She made a number of dazzling passes to teammates and got the home crowd pumped with a couple of uncontested layups after beating defenders with ankle-breaking, crossover-dribble moves.
It's safe to say such a performance might have been expected.
Morrissette was awarded the game ball and was presented a large picture of herself prior to the game for recently scoring her 1,000th point.
"We wanted to do it earlier, but we haven't had a home game in awhile," Solis said. "It's a great accomplishment for Ashley. Her maturity level has grown throughout her career. She's the type of player who wants to keep improving."
Morrissette wasn't the only player that gave the Lady Explorers' migraines.
Senior guard Brooke Smith, a Cleveland State University recruit, had a knack for disrupting Hudson's trapping defense with her quickness and nifty behind-the-back dribbling. She finished with 19 points and five steals.
And then there was junior guard Baleigh Reid, who scored 10 points and proved to be a major disruption on defense.
Although Lady Explorers' senior forward Hannah Boesinger scored 12 points, she had to work much harder than normal, thanks mainly to Reid's presence.
"Baleigh is always going to guard the other team's best player," Solis said. "All of three of those girls [Morrissette, Smith and Reid] play so well together.
"I think that's what really makes us deadly. A lot of teams don't have three really good guards like we do."
No question, Twinsburg, which has owned Hudson in recent years, dictated play on both ends.
But the Lady Explorers, who recently had a 12-game winning streak snapped after a 66-55 loss to Solon Feb. 6, showed some of its mettle before the game completely got away in the second half.
Hudson outscored the Lady Tigers 8-4 in the first quarter after trailing 13-0 and they got a little bit of a boost when they scored the last four points of the first half.
Nonetheless, there was never a point when Twinsburg didn't have control of the game.
Such a fact is crystal clear to Lawler, who knows his talented team has some fine-tuning to do if it wants to reach elite status.
"They took us out of our game," Lawler said. "We'll look at the film and see what we need to do to compete to this level. I don't think this game is indicative of the season we've had."
Krissy Mummey added nine points for the Lady Explorers, who are scheduled to visit Valley Division foe Mentor Feb. 13 in their regular-season finale at 7:30 p.m.