by Frank Aceto
Associate Sports Editor
Copley -- Despite feeling weary and extremely uncomfortable, Chris Scott decided to take the court March 9.
It worked out "perfectly" for the Knights.
The top-seeded Nordonia boys basketball team advanced to regional play for the first time since 1993 after earning a convincing 66-48 victory over third-seeded Hudson at Copley High School.
With the win, the Knights (22-3) got a date with Brecksville-Broadview Heights in a regional semifinal contest March 13 at the University of Akron's James A. Rhodes Arena. Game time is set for 7 p.m. Brecksville advanced with a 58-53 win over Westlake.
Nordonia received an inspiring performance from 6-foot-8 senior center Chris Scott, who had an evening to remember despite suffering from food poisoning.
Scott took 16 shots for the Knights. All 16 of those shots fell through the hoop.
Scott, who recently made a verbal commitment to continue his academic and basketball careers at Notre Dame College in South Euclid, finished a perfect 6-of-6 from the floor and 10-of-10 from the foul line.
And this was coming from a young man who barely had any energy the entire day.
"There was no way I was going to sit out," Scott said. "I'm a senior captain and this is my team. I was going to fight through adversity."
The adversity didn't end there.
Scott wasn't the only Nordonia player who was ill. Starting guards Nick Piotrowski, a senior, and Alex Alders, a sophomore, also suffered from flu-like symptoms.
"The beginning of the game was iffy," Knights head coach Matt Cash said. "We had some guys who were sick during the morning shootaround. We had to keep an eye on them during the game."
And to top things off, the Explorers (20-5), who entered the game on a 13-game winning streak, stormed out of the gates on fire.
Hudson, which seemed perfectly comfortable playing at Nordonia's breakneck pace, exploded to a 10-2 lead.
The Knights quickly regrouped, thanks to a couple of three-pointers by Piotrowski and another three-point bomb from sophomore guard Max Hartman.
Nordonia concluded the quarter with a 13-4 run to take a 15-14 lead after one quarter of play.
The Explorers regained their advantage (16-15) when senior forward Ben Gedeon, who recently signed to play football at the University of Michigan, knocked down a short jumper early in the second quarter.
Hudson never led again.
The Explorers scored a combined total of just nine points in the second and third quarters.
Meanwhile, the Knights scored 30 to take a convincing 45-23 lead.
At that point, Hudson, which trailed by as many as 28 (64-36) with a little more than three minutes left in the game, didn't have a chance.
Nordonia's quickness and superior depth completely overwhelmed the Explorers for much of the game. The Knights, who pressed and trapped Hudson's ball-handlers for much of the night, forced the Explorers to hurry their shots and turn the ball over.
Nordonia, on the other hand, handled its business with ruthless efficiency.
If the Knights shot three-pointers, they usually buried them. They made six on the evening. If a Nordonia player drew contact, that usually meant two points for the Knights as they knocked down 16-of-18 from the line.
And of course, Nordonia had its ultimate security blanket in Scott, who made anyone wearing a blue and white jersey hesitant to invade his territory underneath the basket.
Scott, who now has 1,016 career points heading into regional play, also had 12 rebounds and three blocked shots.
The Hudson players, on the other hand, may have wondered what hit them after the torrid start.
All told, the Explorers shot just 31 percent (18-of-59) from the floor, including a woeful 2 of 21 from beyond the three-point arc. Hudson also made only 10-of-20 shots from the foul line.
"Unfortunately, you're going to have nights like this," Explorers head coach Jeff Brink said. "That's sports. Even in the first four minutes, we had a couple of missed opportunities. It's not like we didn't have open looks. You can't miss open layups against a good ball club like Nordonia."
The Knights certainly didn't miss.
A total of five Nordonia players scored at least six points, including two others in double digits. Senior forward Dameon Luster proved to be Robin to Scott's Batman with 12 points off the bench. Like his taller teammate, the 6-3 Luster made 5-of-7 shots and got the Knights' fans on their feet with two dunks off steals. Piotrowski added 11 points.
Senior guard Zack Brandy led Hudson with 21 points and nine rebounds, but as usual, he was a marked man for much of the night and finished just 5-of-15 from the floor.
Gedeon added 12 points for the Explorers.
This was the final game for Brandy, Gedeon and fellow Hudson seniors Steve Boslet (guard), Alex Mushock (forward), Alex Albright (guard), Sam Wolanske (forward) and Colin Hogan (forward). The Explorers won the Northeast Ohio Conference River Division title during the regular season. It was Hudson's first division title since 2001.
"No one wants to say goodbye to great kids," Brink said. "We had a tremendous senior class. They won a league title for the first time in 12 years and they had a 13-game winning streak. When Ben Gedeon went down [with a shoulder injury], they answered the bell. They know how important they are and how much I care about them. Their dedication and sacrifice were second to none. They went beyond the call of duty."