by Rob Barrone
Youngstown -- It wasn't particularly attractive to some.
But like the saying goes, "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder."
The Hudson boys basketball team improved to 4-1 on the season after earning a 64-56 victory over Youngstown East Dec. 20 on the road.
The win turned out to be a memorable one for, well, all the wrong reasons.
"Never apologize for a win, but that was about as ugly as they come," Explorers' senior co-captain Kevin Zullo said.
Zullo's coach had similar feelings.
"The bottom line is it was an ugly win, but we still won," Hudson head coach Jeff Brink said.
While the varsity game lacked the style points, it was an overall good day for the Explorers.
The junior varsity squad improved to 3-2 with a 51-37 win and the freshmen team moved to 4-0 with a commanding 69-33 victory.
"It's always nice when you go on the road to get three," Brink said. "It was a long trip and a long night."
So why was the varsity contest so unattractive?
For starters, it seemed like whenever someone made a move, you could hear a whistle. Hudson attempted a whopping 46 foul shots and made just 23.
"Our free-throw shooting was atrocious," Brink said. "It kept them in the game. You finish teams by making free throws and we didn't finish. That left the game in doubt when it should have been over much earlier."
When they were away from the charity stripe and moving around, the Explorers were rather productive offensively.
Hudson made 5 of its 10 three-point attempts, including four from Zullo, and found ways to repeatedly get layups. All told, the Explorers made 13 of 24 two-point shots.
"Our shooting was tremendous," Brink said. "Kevin shot the ball well and on the positive side, we executed a couple of our out-of-bounds plays very well and it paid off when Kevin made the shot.
"With Derek [Schwarz, who had three points and seven rebounds] in foul trouble, Kevin had to play in the middle of our zone and he came up with some big rebounds at crunch time."
Zullo ended with career highs in points (23) and rebounds (10) for his first double-double.
The lack of beauty didn't just take place at the free throw line.
Hudson also committed 22 turnovers against East's tenacious full-court pressure. On the positive side, though, the Explorers also forced 17 turnovers.
"We had a lot of missed free throws, but we stayed strong and battled for the win," Zullo said. "The last couple of games, we have been turning it up defensively and getting a lot of turnovers. Mitch [Guadagni] coming back and leading the press has been a big help for us."
Guadagni (four steals) matched his career high with 14 points off the bench in his second game back from an ankle injury.
"I'm a little winded sometimes and a little out of shape, but it feels good to be back with the boys," the junior guard said.
Hudson took control with an 18-4 run in the third quarter. That turned a 31-24 halftime lead into a comfortable 49-28 advantage.
The Explorers were sharp defensively during that spurt and got two drawn charges from senior reserve Ian Laver. All told, Laver caused East to commit four offensive fouls during the evening.
"Ian Laver's four charges and minutes off the bench were a key," Brink said. "Laver stepped up and made some plays and Mitch is getting his legs back. Ian was a key guy in the second half. Defensively, he changed the tempo."
Davey Spitz led the Explorers with 20 points in the JV game.
Hudson is scheduled to host the Hudson Holiday Tournament this week. Chagrin Falls Kenston and Richfield Revere are set to open tournament play Dec. 27 at 6 p.m.
The Explorers are scheduled to play Streetsboro Dec. 27 at 7:30 p.m. The tournament is set to conclude Dec. 28 with the consolation game at 6 p.m. and the championship game at 7:30 p.m.