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Boys nearly upset Grizzlies

By ROB BARRONE Correspondent Published: February 22, 2017 12:00 AM
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HUDSON -- It was a much better effort than it's previous game.

But the Hudson boys basketball fell just short of pulling off a major upset.

Wadsworth kept its Suburban League National Conference title hopes alive after posting a come-from-behind 57-48 victory over the host Explorers Feb. 17 at Ray "Buck" Hyser Gymnasium.

With the win, the Grizzlies improved to 15-5 overall and 11-2 in the National Conference. Wadsworth trails first-place Stow-Munroe Falls (15-4, 12-1) by one game in the National Conference. Both the Grizzlies and Bulldogs had one conference game left on their schedules.

Hudson (8-12, 3-9) made significant strides after losing 48-43 to Twinsburg Feb. 14 on the road.

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The Explorers did not score in the final 6 minutes, 37 seconds of that game.

Against Wadsworth, Hudson stormed out to an 11-2 advantage and had the lead until the Grizzlies rallied in the fourth quarter. Wadsworth made 12 of its last 13 foul shots.

"We came back from our worst quarter of the year to one of the best quarters of the year," Explorers head coach Jeff Brink said. "That's a step forward. They [the Grizzlies] are a good team.

"Give them credit. A mark of a great team is finishing off games. They made their free throws and they didn't turn the ball over late in the game. This game was a hundred times better played than [Feb. 14], but we got sloppy at the end when they heated us up."

Wadsworth finished with 14 steals, including nine in the pivotal fourth quarter.

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Nearly every statistical column in the books had Hudson even with or better than the Grizzlies, but it was turnovers that ultimately did the Explorers in. Hudson lost the ball 20 times, while Wadsworth finished with just eight turnovers.

The Explorers shot 48 percent (19-of-39) from the floor and had a 28-15 edge on the glass.

The junior backcourt tandem of Christian Szalay and Tony Hewitt led the comeback on both ends of the court for the Grizzlies.

Szalay led all scorers with 22 points, while Hewitt was right behind him with 21. On the other end, Hewitt recorded 6 steals, including five in the final five minutes of the game.

Szalay scored most of his points on drives to the bucket and at the free throw line (7-of-10), while Hewitt bombed away from way, way downtown. Hewitt hit three NBA-range 3-pointers in the third quarter and added a fourth early in the fourth.

"Szalay did a great job breaking us down off the dribble," Brink said. "Everybody is going to look at Hewitt because he was hitting threes, but I really thought the key was our inability to contain Szalay, which created the opportunities for Hewitt to hit the threes. That's a pretty good one-two punch."

The Grizzlies missed their first eight shots from the floor, first three free throws and first six 3-point tries.

When Jackson Parker converted a layup early in the secede quarter, Hudson had a 13-2 lead.

But the Explorers lost the ball eight times in the second quarter and Wadsworth cut its deficit to 19-14 at halftime.

The Grizzlies to their first lead (37-36) with 4:52 left when Hewitt got a steal and a breakaway layup.

Wadsworth took the lead (41-39) for good when Jack Simmons knocked down a jumper with 3:23 remaining.

Senior forward Alex Beck led Hudson with 10 points on 5-of-6 shooting. He scored eight points in the final eight minutes. Guard William Wallace and post player Jack Burdett contributed 7 and 6 points, respectively, for the Explorers.

"It's unfortunate we let the game the other night get away, but it was nice for the guys to come back with a good, solid effort," Brink said. "The effort was phenomenal. We just have to be more consistent making plays and taking care of the basketball."

Hudson's junior varsity team improved to 15-5 overall and 8-4 in the National Conference after posting a 51-41 win. Daniel Baerentzen led the way with 9 points and Kevin McBride and Anthony Chokenea each had 8 points.

The Explorers lost to the Grizzlies 45-35 in the freshman game.

The varsity squad was scheduled to visit National Conference foe Nordonia Feb. 21 in Macedonia. Results were not available at press time.

Hudson is set to conclude its regular season with a home date against Brecksville-Broadview Heights Feb. 24 at 7:30 p.m.

The Explorers received the eighth seed at the Copley Division I sectional-district tournament. They are set to entertain ninth-seeded Akron Firestone in a sectional semifinal contest March 1 at 7 p.m.

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