by Rob Barrone
Macedonia -- The first half was a success for both Nordonia and Hudson offensively.
In a matchup between the defending Suburban League champion Knights and the Northeast Ohio Conference River Division champion Explorers, both offenses lit it up in the first 16 minutes of action Jan. 21 in Macedonia.
The second half turned out to be more of a defensive tussle. And Nordonia had just enough offense.
Hudson fell to 6-6 on the season after losing a 47-44 decision to the Knights, who have won seven straight games against the Explorers.
The game was tied at 31 when the two teams went to the locker room. Hudson made 13 of 24 shots, while Nordoni made 11 of 20, including 7 of 13 from beyond the 3-point arc.
"We switched up our defense," Knights head coach Matt Cash said. "We went to our 3-2 zone and a little 1-3-1 zone [from the man to man in the first half].
The zone proved to be much more successful.
The Explorers also made adjustments to try to slow down Nordonia guard Max Hartman.
The junior scored 19 points in the first half with 12 of those points coming from beyond the 3-point arc. Hartman made four threes in the half on his way to a game-high 23 points.
"It was a defensive battle in the second half," Hudson head coach Jeff Brink said. "We made a few adjustments defensively.
"I thought we played very solid D. Hartman only had four points [in the second half] and both of his shots were tough shots that he finished on to score."
While the two clubs were locked into the defensive struggle, the Knights, who missed all eight their three-point attempts after the break, roared back from a 42-35 deficit with 6 minutes, 24 seconds. Nordonia scored the next eight points to take the lead.
Six of those eight points came inside the paint. The last two, a layup by Eli Linder off a feed from Hartman with 2:14 left, gave the Knights the lead for good at 43-42.
Jordan Adams (six points) and Linder (eight) kept the Explorers at bay as each converted both ends of one and ones down the stretch.
Adams' conversions increased Nordonia's advantage to 45-42 with 1:03 left. Linder's charity tosses, with 22.1 seconds to play, answered the Explorers' John Zuccaro's score inside that had cut the gap to 45-44.
Hudson missed two shots to tie in the final seconds. The Explorers made just 1 of 9 shots in the last five minutes.
"In a game like this, it comes down to a play here or there," Brink said. "You've got to make free throws to ice games. They made four straight free throws and we didn't make the plays we needed to. They made plays, we didn't. They got the win."
Kevin Zullo led Hudson with 17 points, including 11 in the first quarter when Hudson took a 21-15 lead. Zullo knocked down five 3-pointers. Derek Schwarz finished with seven points and eight rebounds for the Explorers.
Hudson had a 39-35 lead after holding the Knights to just four points in the third quarter.
Chris Koscho led Hudson in the third with all eight of his team's points to go along with five rebounds in the period.
The 5-foot-9 guard finished with seven rebounds for Hudson.
"Chris Koscho's defense was instrumental in our effort to shut Hartman down in the second half," Brink said.
"His effort was great and his rebounding was phenomenal. When you play like that, you stay on the floor."
The Explorers earned a 52-37 win in the junior varsity contest. Zach Meder led Hudson with 11 pioints.
The Explorers were scheduled to visit River Division rival Solon Jan. 24. Results were not available at press time. They are set to visit Akron North Jan. 28 at 7:30 p.m.