by Rob Barrone | Correspondent
Hudson -- For the second straight year, the Hudson Holiday Classic championship game went down to the wire.
For the second straight year, the host Hudson boys basketball team took home the runner-up trophy.
Despite a second-half surge, the Explorers lost a 47-46 decision to Chagrin Falls Kenston in the championship game Dec. 28 at Ray "Buck" Hyser Gymnasium. Richfield Revere scored a 70-55 win over Streetsboro in the consolation game.
In the inaugural classic last year, Medina escaped with a 63-62 overtime victory over Hudson.
This time, the Bombers (7-2) led most of the evening and survived a second-half comeback by the Explorers, who scored a 50-34 win over the Rockets in their first-round game Dec. 27.
But its poor play in the first 16 minutes ultimately sealed Hudson's fate.
"Our execution was atrocious in the first half," Explorers head coach Jeff Brink said.
"Our execution and ineffectiveness on the offensive end was something we wanted to clean up in the second half and we tried to do that by changing the tempo of the game defensively.
"I thought we did an excellent job of that in the second half -- changing tempo and getting into the flow. The effort was tremendous, but there were too many mental mistakes to overcome."
Kenston junior Bernie Porter was named the tournament's Most Valuable Player.
The 5-foot-11 guard scored a game-high 14 points in the title game and tallied a team-high 15 points in the Bombers' 66-49 win over the Minutemen.
Also making the all-tournament team were Hudson's Kevin Zullo and Derek Schwarz, Kenston's Jay Weemhoff, Revere's Teddy Hughes and Dylan Geig and Streetsboro's Avery VanReeth.
Against the Bombers, the Explorers (5-2) made just three of their first 19 shots and trailed 18-9 at halftime.
Increased pressure on defense and better shooting after the break (12 of 28) helped Hudson come back to within one (24-23) heading into the fourth quarter.
But Kenston converted just enough at the free throw line in the fourth quarter (11 of 18) to hold off the surging Explorers and take home the title.
At one point, Hudson went nearly eight minutes without scoring a single point in the first half.
Fortunately, the Bombers didn't shoot much better.
Kenston converted just 6 of 18 shots in the first 16 minutes. Each team made one field goal in the second quarter.
Zullo, who finished with 12 points, hit the second of his four three-pointers for the game to open the second-half scoring. The Bombers missed eight of their 10 shots from the floor in the third quarter.
Schwarz scored seven of his 12 points in the fourth quarter and Zullo drilled a pair of threes from the right corner to keep things close.
Hudson had one shot at the lead and another for a tie in the fourth quarter, but both shots came up empty.
Porter converted 5 of 8 foul shots in the final 1:30 to preserve the win as Mitch Guadagni's layup with 7 seconds to play left the Explorers a point short.
Against Streetsboro, Hudson's inside-outside combination of Schwarz, who finished with eight points and 12 rebounds, and Zullo, who scored 15 points on five three-pointers, proved to be too much for the Rockets (6-2).
Chris Koscho and Mitch Guadagni added 10 and eight points, respectively, for the Explorers.
"I thought the key to the game was when Mitch, Chris and John [Zuccaro] picked up the defensive intensity," Brink said.
"Mitch was a huge spark and that was probably the best game Chris has had all year."
Hudson took control in the second quarter when it outrebounded Streetsboro 12-3 (35-17 for the game), hit 5 of 11 shots from the floor and 4 of 4 from the line. The Explorers won the quarter 15-6 to lead 24-14 at halftime.
The increased defensive pressure led to three straight Rocket turnovers to start the second half.
Two steals by Koscho (four for the game) and one by Guadagni (three on the night) led to six Hudson points and a 16-point bulge.
The Explorers had a 40-21 lead going into the fourth quarter until Streetsboro's Reggie Dublin started to heat up. Dublin scored nine of his team's 13 points in the quarter and finished with a team-high 15 for the game.
Zullo sealed the deal for Hudson with two threes in the final period.
"We like coming down here," Rockets head coach Nick Marcini said. "It's real tough competition. We like to spice up our non-league schedule coming here.
'We always play Hudson first. It's a great program and a big Division I school."
The Explorers are scheduled to visit Northeast Ohio Conference River Division rival Brush Jan. 3 in Lyndhurst. Game time is set for 7:30 p.m.