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by Rob Barrone | Correspondent
Kent -- Setting its sights on its first outright Northeast Ohio Conference River Division title, the Hudson boys basketball team wanted to avoid letting its guard down in its final nonleague regular-season game.
The Explorers' opponent was Kent Roosevelt, a team that won't be competing for a title anytime soon.
The first half proved to be a bit nerve-racking for Hudson fans. They could breathe a little easier once the Explorers returned from the locker room.
Hudson earned its 10 consecutive win after posting a convincing 74-42 victory over the Rough Riders Feb. 19 in Kent. With the win, the Explorers improved to 17-4. Kent fell to 6-15.
With Solon coming to town three days later, it was very tempting for Hudson to look past the struggling Rough Riders.The Explorers put such matters to rest with a 36-5 run in the second half to take full control.
"We talked about it and said, 'We can't let this be a trap game,'" said Hudson senior co-captain Zack Brandy, who finished with a game-high 28 points. "We want to end just as hot as we started this streak. We don't want to take any team lightly."
Regardless of the outcome, the Explorers will clinch at least a share of the River Division title. Hudson was scheduled to host Solon Feb. 22. Results were not available at press time.
But first things, first.
"This is always a dangerous place to play," Hudson head coach Jeff Brink said. "We came out in the first half and basically looked like a team in a trap situation."
Kent had a 15-14 lead after the first quarter and was still very much in the game at halftime. The Explorers had a 34-28 advantage when the two teams went to the locker rooms.
Once the third quarter began, Hudson looked more like its old self.
The Explorers outscored the Rough Riders 23-5 in the third quarter and then opened the fourth period with a 13-0 run.
"One of the things we said at the half was, 'Let's win the third quarter by double digits and we did," Brink said. "The third quarter was a work of art. It was a fantastic quarter."
In the third, Hudson made 7-of-12 shots from the floor and 8-of-10 at the foul line, while limiting Kent to 2-of-12 shooting.
The defense also forced five Rough Riders' turnovers in the period. Kent had 16 miscues for the game and the Explorers committed a season-low five turnovers.
Brandy led the way in the third quarter with 10 points. Four other players scored at least two points in the period.
For the game, Brandy made 10-of-15 shots from the floor (including 2-of-4 three-pointers) and 6-of-8 from the charity stripe. Brandy added a season-high eight assists. Boslet, Zullo and Guadagni also had big nights. Zullo knocked down three shots from beyond the three-point arc and finished with 11 points. Guadagni was 4-of-7 from the floor with nine points
Boslet had his first career double-double with 14 points and a career high 11 rebounds. The 6-3 senior, who made 3-of-6 three-pointers, also chipped in a career-high five steals.
"Steve Boslet had a great defensive effort in the second half," Brink said. "He had a lot of deflections and rebounds. He was very active. This was a great team effort.
"Mitch Guadagni is having a phenomenal year and had a couple great takes. Kevin Zullo had a couple big busts for us. Sam Wolanske -- in his first varsity start -- did a nice job and Zack Brandy was Zack Brandy. He does what he does on a nightly basis."
For the game, the Explorers shot 47.5 percent from the floor (28-of-59) and converted 10-of-13 from the foul line. Hudson also grabbed 32 rebounds. After making seven of it first 11 shots, Kent cooled off considerably. The Rough Riders made just 16-of-48 shots and pulled down 28 rebounds.
Third-seeded Hudson is set to play the Medina-Medina Highland winner in a Division I sectional title contest March 2 at Copley High School. Tip-off is scheduled for 6 p.m.