by Frank Aceto
Associate Sports Editor
Akron -- It involved some sloppy play, a few too many turnovers and free throws and a very pesky opponent.
In the end, it was still a win for the Hudson girls basketball team.
The second-seeded Lady Explorers advanced to Division I district play after posting a 64-52 victory over Nordonia Feb. 23 at Ellet High School in Akron.
With the win, Hudson (19-5) earned a date with fifth-seeded Walsh Jesuit (17-7), which posted a 68-53 victory over fourth-seeded Stow-Munroe Falls Feb. 23. The Lady Explorers are scheduled to play the Lady Warriors Feb. 28 at 8 p.m.
On paper, Hudson's sectional final contest with the Lady Knights seemed like a total mismatch.
Nordonia, which started two sophomores and a junior and had just two seniors on the team, had its share of growing pains during the regular season.
But the Lady Knights (7-16) proved they weren't pushovers against one of the area powers.
Although the Lady Explorers' full-court pressure defense forced a lot of turnovers, Nordonia managed to weather the storm for the first 24 minutes. Hudson led 32-22 after two quarters.
Unfortunately, the Lady Knights couldn't stay with the Lady Explorers after halftime.
Hudson, which also had issues taking care of the ball, finally got its offense in sync and took control. The Lady Explorers eventually built their lead to 19 (50-31) late in the third quarter and never looked back.
"I thought we played a great third quarter," Hudson head coach Dennis Lawler said. "We took better care of the ball in the second half.
"It seemed like we were playing not to lose in the first half. But I was really proud of the girls for coming back strong in the third quarter."
Nordonia head coach Mike Griffen was pleased with his team too.
Despite the Lady Explorers' significant height advantage, the Lady Knights held their own on the boards.
"I thought our effort was phenomenal," Griffen said. "Our girls don't quit and they fight tooth and nail to the end. Being 7-15, a lot of people didn't expect us to compete. The 15 players and coaches came here expecting to win."
Hannah Boesinger led Hudson with a game-high 17 points. Her three-pointer with a little more than three minutes left gave her 1,000 points for her career.
She is the sixth Lady Explorer to reach that mark.
"She did it in 3-1/2 years," Lawler said. "I'm really proud of her. She's a great competitor who has continued to take this team to the next level."
Jackie Ulmer had 15 points for Hudson and Allison Zullo and Krissy Mummey added nine and eight points, respectively, for the Lady Explorers.
Aysa Shine and Kayla Shine each had to 11 points to lead Nordonia and teammate Katie Karalic scored 10 points.
Seniors Aysa Shine, a guard, Nataly Ciocca (guard) and Brandy Richards (forward) concluded their high school basketball careers for the Lady Knights.
"We're going to be missing a few key pieces," Griffen said. "But 85 to 90 percent of our stats will be back."
Hudson converted just 15-of-28 foul shots and committed 23 turnovers. The Lady Explorers also forced 25 turnovers.
But Lawler will certainly take the victory. His team has now won two straight playoff games after finishing the regular season on a three-game losing streak.
Lawler knows Walsh will be a formidable challenge.
"They're good," Lawler said. "We can't play like we did [Feb. 23] and expect to win. We have to take better care of the basketball and they have a couple of players we have to stop."