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by Frank Aceto | Associate Sports Editor
Macedonia -- When the sectional-district drawing came out, the Hudson girls basketball team elected to take a bye in the opening round.
Pardon the Nordonia players and coaches if they felt somewhat disrespected by the Lady Explorers' decision.
"They took a bye so they could play us," Lady Knights head coach Mike Griffen said.
"They had so many options, but they chose to play us because they thought they could beat us."
Fortunately for Griffen and his players, Hudson made the wrong choice.
Sixth-seeded Nordonia advanced to a Division I district semifinal contest.
The Lady Knights earned a 40-32 victory over the eighth-seeded Lady Explorers in a sectional title contest. The game took place Feb. 20 in Macedonia.
With the win, the Lady Knights improved to 16-7 and got some revenge on Hudson, which had beaten Nordonia twice in their last two postseason meetings.
This time, the Lady Knights had the first and last say, thanks to their impressive defense.
How stingy were they?
The Lady Explorers, who have taken the soul away from many opponents over the years with their ruthless efficiency on offense, scored a total of zero points in the first quarter.
Hudson did not get its first points of the game until Krissy Mummey scored a layup a little more than a minute into the second period.
"I was really happy with the way we played," Griffen said. "We couldn't have given a better defensive effort.
"We took away their dribble drive and we double-teamed their two best players. Hudson has two great seniors in Krissy Mummey and Jackie Ulmer."
Mummey scored a team-high 10 points for the Lady Explorers, but she had a rough shooting night and had to earn all of her points. Ulmer scored nine points and was in foul trouble for most of the game.
"We were getting shots we wanted," Hudson head coach Dennis Lawler said. "They just weren't going in. We missed a lot of layups and we had some shots go in and out when we got fouled. But a lot of that has to do with what they [the Lady Knights] did."
Neither team was particularly efficient on offense.
Both squads struggled mightily to get in rhythm and the first 16 minutes featured a lot of misses and a lot of turnovers. Even when shots weren't contested, neither team could put the ball in the basket consistently.
That included the free throw line.
Nordonia made just 8 of 23 foul shots, while Hudson converted 10 of 21.
The Lady Knights were able to build their lead, thanks to their defense, their ability to track down loose balls and their patience on offense.
When Kayla Mislosky buried a jumper as time expired, Nordonia had a 19-10 lead at halftime.
Still, though, the Lady Explorers managed to make things a bit nerve-racking for the Lady Knights.
On two occasions, Hudson cut its deficit to four late in the third quarter. But Nordonia always seemed to have the answer when the situation became a bit stressful for the home fans.
The Lady Explorers, on the other hand, simply couldn't make shots when they needed them.
On one occasion, Hudson missed three consecutive 3-pointers after grabbing two offensive rebounds.
While the Lady Explorers had their growing pains after winning 20 games the previous season, Griffen certainly didn't take his opponent lightly.
"Hudson plays in one of the best conferences in the area," he said. "This was a huge confidence boost for the girls."
Katie Karalic, who frustrated the Lady Explorers with an array of floaters off the dribble, led all scorers with 13 points.
Meghan Reilly added nine points for the Lady Knights despite being hindered by foul trouble. A total of eight players scored at least two points for Nordonia.
Hudson said good-bye to Ulmer, Mummey and fellow seniors Margo Camp, Alli Baylor and Nicole Goodson, who missed the entire season with a knee injury.
"They've been a part of my life for the last four years," Lawler said. "I have been with them on a daily basis. We're hoping what we taught them translates to what they can be in the future. Those five people have been a part of a lot of wins."