by Rob Barrone | Correspondent
Mayfield -- The Wildcats tried to steal the show.
Host Mayfield utilized an in-your-face, trapping full-court press to try to steal away a win against the Hudson boys basketball team Dec. 10 at "The Habitat of the Cat" in Mayfield.
The strategy kept things close, but the Explorers' inside presence wore the Wildcats down on the glass en route to a 63-50 victory over Mayfield.
Hudson improved to 2-0 with the win.
The Explorers outrebounded their Northeast Ohio Conference rival 43-24 and pulled down 13 offensive rebounds to account for 10 second-chance points.
By contrast, Mayfield managed five offensive boards and just three points on the second opportunity.
Leading the way for Hudson was senior Derek Schwarz.
The 6-foot-5 starting post, who came into the season scoring 39 points and grabbing 50 rebounds in 29 combined games his sophomore and junior seasons, recorded his first career double double with 14 points and 16 boards.
"He [Schwarz] was awesome," said co-captain Kevin Zullo as the Explorers (2-0) earned their 10th consecutive victory over Mayfield and are 10-1 against the Wildcats overall.
"Our rebounding was phenomenal," Hudson head coach Jeff Brink said. "We felt pretty confident that Derek could dominate the game inside if we could get him the ball.
"To their [the Wildcats'] credit, they did a nice job pressuring our guards to try to keep us from attacking them in the paint.
"Derek did a nice job in traffic of catching and then maintaining his composure. There were a lot of bodies in there."
Schwarz had three putbacks on four offensive rebounds for the game.
His 12 boards on the defensive end limited Mayfield to a number of one-and-done possessions.
Despite a very active night, which included a pair of blocks, Schwarz also kept out of foul trouble.
"Any of our guards can go up and get the ball," Schwarz said. "It's one thing for the posts to do it because that's our job, but having those guards go in there has really helped us.
"We have great team chemistry and we feed off each other's strengths and help each other with our weaknesses."
While Schwarz picked up a double-double the more conventional way, Wildcats' senior Ryan Bailey got his the hard way.
The 6-foot guard led Mayfield with 16 points and also finished with a mind-boggling 13 steals.
The Wildcats forced 25 Hudson turnovers (the Wildcats had 21 steals for the game), but they turned the ball over 20 times.
"Bailey ... we had that in the scouting report," Brink said. "He is very good on the ball and has very active and quick hands.
"It is something we worked on but didn't do a good enough job against a good defender."
Bailey had seven steals and 6-4 senior Zack Nahra had all of his 15 points in the first half as the Wildcats closed a 22-11 first-quarter deficit to 35-29 at halftime.
Bailey then led a 10-6 spurt to start the third quarter with a pair of steals, a pair of three-pointers and a breakaway dunk that closed the gap to two (41-39 with 4 minutes, 54 seconds left in the third quarter).
The slam had the Mayfield fans psyched -- temporarily.
Schwarz that started a 7-0 run that quieted the crowd.
He scored on a putback, Zack Meder (four points) followed with a three and Zullo (a game-high 18 points, five rebounds and four steals) put in a nice two-point bucket on a spin move inside to widen the advantage to 48-39.
"In the league that we play in, dunks are normal," Brink said. "It's two points. I know the crowd likes those things but as a team, it's not something we get flustered over.
"It's part of the game. We didn't get rattled."
Schwarz closed out the game with his best quarter, controlling the glass in the final eight minutes.
He grabbed six missed shots in the quarter.
Zullo added seven points, including his fourth three-pointer off a pass from Schwarz, to help Hudson stretch the lead to 55-41 midway through the period.
"We were bigger than them, so we really tried to get the ball inside to Derek," Zullo said."They took that away and the outside stuff opened up [Zullo hit four deep balls and the Explorers made six threes for the game].
"We battled offensively and found a way to score points and come out on top."
Brendan Burdett (11 points, five rebounds and three steals) and John Zuccaro (10 points and eight rebounds) gave Hudson a balanced scoring attack again.
The Explorers were scheduled to visit NOC River Division foe Stow-Munroe Falls Dec. 13 at James G. Tyree Gymnasium. Results were not available at press time.
Hudson is set to return to Ray "Buck" Hyser Gymnasium to face NOC rival Brunswick Dec. 17 at 7:30 p.m.