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So much for preseason rankings in girls' youth sports.
The Hudson fifth-grade girls basketball team entered the Greater Cleveland Basketball League as undefeated, defending champs. But, as the new season arrived, Hudson was picked to finish third this year.
"A community team that played in the AAU [Amateur Athletic Union] circuit and some champions from other leagues were now in our division," Hudson head coach Brian Angielski said. "And returning coaches were familiar with Hudson fifth. So we knew it was going to be extremely challenging to repeat."
Hudson opened up league play and beat Medina 33-19 and then preseason favorite Shelby 31-19.
"Shelby was bigger at every position, but our girls stepped up and played as a team," Hudson assistant coach Noreen Jackson said. "They were definitely motivated, given all the preseason talk."
Hudson won the next 10 games by an average of 22 points to finish the regular season 12-0 and entered the playoffs as the top seed.
But it wasn't an easy start as Hudson fell behind 8-2 and narrowly beat seventh-seeded Avon 19-16.
"We simply came out flat, weren't ready to play," Angielski said. "But, testimony to this group, they've learned to overcome obstacles and they found a way to win."
Hudson struggled early again in the semifinals, but then came back strong to beat Brunswick 30-23.
Next up was Shelby for the third time, but now it was for the championship.
Shelby scored first and built early momentum as Hudson started with turnovers. But Hudson came storming back in a flurry as Taylor Angielski scored seven straight points to put Hudson back in the lead 7-2. Hudson went into halftime up 12-10.
Shelby opened the second period with an aggressive, full-court man press. But Grace Jackson outmaneuvered all Shelby defenders on three straight possessions.
She scored on one down the lane and then dished two perfect assists to Kara Lightner in the paint for four easy points. Shelby called off the press.
Hudson returned the favor and launched its own suffocating full-court press, and held its opponent to only five points in the first 14 minutes of the second half and went on to win the league championship game 27-21.
Hudson earned its seventh championship and 55th straight win over two seasons.
"These girls have really worked hard," Jackson said. "Several have played year-round. They play together as a team. It was good to see their efforts payoff in tough playoff rounds."