by Rob Barrone
Hudson -- A slow start hurt the Hudson boys basketball team in its first meeting with Northeast Ohio Conference River Division rival Brush Jan. 3.
This time, the Explorers got off to a much better start.
Unfortunately for Hudson, it didn't matter.
The Arcs swept the season series with the Explorers after posting a 66-55 victory Feb. 7 at Ray "Buck" Hyser Gymnasium.
When Hudson met Brush (12-5, 5-3) the first time, the Arcs took a 15-0 lead en route to a 63-56 win. This time, the Explorers had an 18-13 advantage after one quarter.
And then the shots stopped falling for Hudson.
The Explorers (8-8, 2-6) went on a cold streak that began midway through the second quarter and continued until the fourth period began.
"We had a pretty solid first half, but one negative for us has been our failure to execute at the end of quarters," Hudson head coach Jeff Brink said. "The key was the third quarter and our failure to execute. That put us behind the eight ball. The third quarter was ugly."
The Explorers made 12 of their first 21 shots to take a 30-25 lead with 3 minutes, 28 seconds left in the first half.
And then nothing went right for Hudson.
The Explorers didn't score from the floor for the rest of the first half.
Sadly for Hudson, that was just the beginning.
The Explorers made one field goal in the third quarter and had a stretch where they missed 19 of 20 shots.
Brush took control of the game with an 18-5 run.
Still, though, Hudson stayed in the game, thanks to its defense and work on the offensive glass.
Despite playing without their starting post, 6-foot-5 senior Derek Schwarz, who was out with a bruised wrist, the Explorers outrebounded the taller Arcs 11-7 in the third quarter.
But Hudson couldn't make shots.
Brendan Burdett's layup was the only bucket for the Explorers in the third period. The Arcs led 43-35 heading into the final eight minutes.
Nevertheless, Hudson made things interesting.
John Zuccaro, who finished with 10 points, and Burdett knocked down 3-pointers to cut Brush's lead to three (56-53) with 2:15 left.
But Chris Oakley, who finished with nine points, buried a 3 moments later for the Arcs and Brush made seven of their last eight foul shots to seal the deal.
Oakley scored 23 points and made seven 3-pointers the last time he faced the Explorers.
"We did a pretty fair job on Oakley in the first half," Brink said.
"Mitch [Guadagni] did a phenomenal job in the box.
"He [Oakley] had only four points with Mitch on him in three quarters. We wanted to force other players to make shots."
Unfortunately for Brink, other players did make shots.
Delvon Robinson led the Arcs with 19 points and Alfonso Onunwar added 18 points.
Guadagni and Kevin Zullo each had 14 points to lead Hudson, which earned a 37-26 win in the junior varsity contest.
Zack Meder led the Explorers with 21 points in the JV game.
Hudson earned the 16th seed at the Canton/Copley Division I sectional tournament.
The Explorers are scheduled to visit 11th-seeded Green in a sectional semifinal contest Feb. 26 at 7 p.m.
The winner is set to play at sixth-seeded Austintown Fitch in a sectional title game March 1 at 4 p.m.
If Hudson wins its two sectional contests, it is scheduled to compete in district play at Copley High School.
The top four seeds are Massillon Jackson, Uniontown Lake, Medina and Canton Timken.
The Explorers were scheduled to visit NOC foe North Royalton Feb. 11. Results were not available at press time.
They are set to visit River Division rival Cuyahoga Falls Feb. 14. Varsity game time is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.