by Rob Barrone | Correspondent
Uniontown -- For the four seniors that dressed for its game, the goal was simple.
They wanted to extend the season to give injured senior captain Kevin Zullo a chance to finish up his high school career on the court.
Unfortunately for the Hudson boys basketball team, that won't happen.
The 16th-seeeded Explorers' season came to an end after losing a 58-49 decision to 11th-seeded Green in the opening round of the Copley/Canton Division I sectional-district tournament Feb. 26 in Uniontown.
With the loss, Hudson finished 10-12. The Bulldogs improved to 14-8.
The two teams had six ties and 10 lead chances over the first 19 minutes. But an 11-0 run by Green in the third quarter left the Explorers chasing the Bulldogs the rest of the evening.
Zullo, who led the team in scoring with 11.3 average and is the school record holder for 3-pointers in a season (61) and career (112) missed his second consecutive game with a hop injury. It was the final game for seniors John Zuccaro, Derek Schwarz, Chris Koscho and Ian Laver.
"It was really tough," Zullo said. "My brothers were out there and I would have liked to have been out there with them. They played awesome tonight. They played their hearts out."
Hudson head coachJeff Brink noted the team's desire to prolong Zullo's season.
"It's always tough when you have to say goodbye to seniors," he said. "Everybody wanted to get Kevin another game. You hate to see a senior that has had the kind of career Kevin has had end it with a shirt and tie. Unfortunately, sports are a reflection of life and life isn't always fair. He's got a lot to be proud of. He had a tremendous senior season."
Junior Mitch Guadagni, who along with Zullo, was recently named to the All-Northeast Ohio Conference River Division team, led the scoring effort with 15 points to go along with three steals.
Right behind Guadagni, who made 7 of 13 shots, was Laver. The 6-foot-2 forward scored a career high 13 points on 5-of-8 shooting. He also made all three of his free throws.
Zuccaro, a team captain and an NOC honorable-mention choice, praised the efforts of Laver.
"Props to Ian," he said. "He had the game of his life in the last game of his life."
Schwarz, an NOC honorable-mention selection who had a game-high nine rebounds (the Explorers had a 26-25 edge on the glass), also praised Laver's effort.
"This was tough one to play in for me," he said. "I wanted to go out like Ian Laver did."
Hudson led 12-11 after the first eight minutes, but the Bulldogs had 19-18 advantage at halftime.
Green took control in the third quarter with its full-court pressure.
Hudson committed eight turnovers in the period. Austin Marciniak, who led all scorers with 17 points, got a steal and finished with a 3-point play that started an 11-0 run. The basket gave the Bulldogs the lead (26-25) for good.
The Explorers made things interesting with an 8-2 spurt early in the fourth quarter to cut their deficit to three (41-38). But Green sealed the deal by making 13 of 14 fouls shots in the final period.
The Bulldogs made 20 of 28 foul shots, while the Explorers converted 6 of 8.
Koscho finished with nine points and Zuccaro had four points and seven assists for the Explorers.
"For Ian and Chris, that's the way you want to end your career," Brink said. "That was the best game of Ian Laver's career. It's next man up and he responded."
Although Laver would have loved to have seen Zullo in the lineup, he believes his teammates filled the void admirably.
"All the seniors, Mitch and the whole team rallied around losing Kevin." Laver said. "We came together as one team. I wish we could have won for Kev."
Koscho made three 3-pointers in his final high school game.
"I've been through a lot with those guys," he said. "I love them. I've played with them since I was a little kid. We had a great season. I'm not going to remember how many games we won or lost. I'm going to remember the people I came to bond with."