by Frank Aceto | Associate Sports Editor
Hudson -- Senior guard Zack Brandy contributed just four points during the team's most important game of the season.
Fortunately for Hudson head boys basketball coach Jeff Brink, he made an impact in just about every other way.
The third-seeded Explorers advanced to a Division I district title game after earning a convincing 47-27 victory over Stow-Munroe Falls March 7 at Copley High School.
With the win, Hudson (20-4), which won its 13th straight game and set a school record for victories, secured a date with top-seeded Nordonia in a district title contest March 9. Results were not available at press time. The Knights (21-3) posted a 67-58 victory over the Explorers earlier in the season.
The Bulldogs' goal was to do everything they could to neutralize Brandy, who entered the game with an 18 point-per-game scoring average.
Brandy made just 2-of-9 shots, but since Stow used up all its energy to harass and shadow the talented Hudson guard, Brandy's teammates delivered.
"How many kids who are the best player on their team say, 'Coach, I'm OK with being a screener or a decoy?'" Brink said. "This is coming from an all-state kid. We talked about it all week during practice. He is one of the most unselfish kids you'll find."
And despite his lack of scoring, Brandy made his presence felt.
His ability to create off the dribble and find open teammates proved to be a puzzle Stow simply couldn't solve. The Bulldogs also couldn't solve the Explorers' defense.
Stow (12-13) often had to settle for long-range jumpers under duress. Those shots often found iron and when they did, Hudson, particularly in the second half, usually grabbed the rebound.
While Brandy has been the Explorers' biggest scoring threat throughout the season, Hudson showed it had another offensive dynamo.
On this night, no one was more productive than Steven Boslet, who finished with a team-high 17 points.
The 6-foot-3 senior guard knocked down four three-pointers, including two during a critical 10-0 third quarter run that turned out to be the Bulldogs' demise.
If you count junior guard John Zuccaro's three-pointer late in the first half, the Explorers actually scored 13 unanswered points. That spurt, which ultimately decided the game, turned a two-point deficit into a comfortable 13-point lead (26-15).
"I was feeling it a little bit during warm-ups," Boslet said. "I knew I was going to get the ball. My coach kept telling me to keep shooting since I had the hot hand. We knew they [the Bulldogs] were going to double- and triple-team Zack. That left us some wide-open shots."
As for the opponent, Stow simply couldn't match Hudson's depth.
Unlike the Explorers' star, the Bulldogs' most potent offensive weapon got his points. Junior forward Matt Beech, Stow's leading scorer, finished with a game-high 21 points. But only two other players scored three points apiece for the Bulldogs. In a district semifinal contest against a powerful Hudson squad, that simply won't do.
"Hudson is a good team and they've been blowing away good teams," longtime Stow head coach Dave Close said. "That four-minute stretch in the third quarter was the game. They made two open threes and we missed two open threes. We just don't have that kind of depth."
That lack of depth is a major reason why the Bulldogs' neighbors to the north had Stow's number during the season. The Explorers also beat Stow twice during the regular season on their way to their first division title since 2001.
But Brink never will take the Bulldogs for granted. He knows Stow is not the type of team to be taken lightly.
"I have the utmost respect for Dave Close and Stow," Brink said. "Both teams know each other inside out. Stow is an amazing team. We knew it was going to be a dogfight."