by Rob Barrone | Correspondent
Hudson -- The effort was there but the execution was off.
For the better part of three quarters, the Hudson boys basketball team played a sloppy game in its season opener against Maple Heights Dec. 8 at Ray "Buck" Hyser Gymnasium.
The Explorers turned the ball over 25 times to the Mustangs' full court pressure but when they needed it most, Hudson flipped the switch.
Led by senior Isaac MacGillis and tenacious trapping pressure of their own, the Explorers rallied from eight points down to record a 61-53 victory.
"We turned up the intensity with our 1-3-1 trap," Hudson head coach Jeff Brink said. "Really, Isaac was the spark for everything. He had some good defensive plays and blocks. He really set the intensity for the whole team."
Trailing 42-34 as time wound down in the third quarter, the Explorers (1-0) needed a spark in their first-ever meeting with the Mustangs (1-1).
Hudson guard Zack Meder got things started by hitting the team's first 3-pointer of the night from the left wing, with 17 seconds left in the third. From there, MacGillis and the trapping defense took over.
MacGillis had been relegated to the bench for the final 5 minutes, 42 seconds of the third period with three fouls.
Before his third foul, the Explorers led 28-22 despite 18 turnovers to that point.
Maple Heights then went on a 10-2 run and added another 8-0 spurt later in the frame to build its eight-point bulge. Meder's 3 then set the stage for the fourth quarter rally.
MacGillis returned from the bench and started the fourth with a bucket inside.
After a Mustang score, MacGillis was left alone for a 3-pointer from the top of the key.
He nailed it.
At the other end after his made 3, which cut the deficit to 44-42 with 6:48 on the clock, MacGillis and his teammates provided a play for the highlight reel.
MacGillis started it by swatting a Mustang shot.
Alex Beck (7 points in his varsity debut) hustled to save the ball to Jackson Parker, who then found Meder for a breakaway layup to tie the game at 44.
"A blocked shot that goes out of bounds is a side out," Brink said. "It actually gives them a chance to run a play. A block that you can possess is a key. The one that Isaac blocked and Beck ran down on the sideline was a huge play.
"That was one of those plays that you circle and say that was a turning point play. Momentum-wise, we controlled the fourth quarter."
With MacGillis blocking two more shots in the final minutes and grabbing three of his game-high 12 rebounds, to go with 18 points, the 6-foot-9 post recorded his fourth career double-double and his first at home.
More "circled" plays came in the final minutes. The Explorers took the lead for good at the 3:28 mark when David O'Connor (6 points and 7 rebounds) was fouled while grabbing a defensive rebound.
The 6-7 senior came out of the game, limping and was replaced at the line by Parker. Parker hit the first of two charity tosses for a 51-50 advantage. O'Connor did not return.
The next "circle" came when Parker recorded a steal off the trapping press and went in for a layup.
There was a collision under the basket and bodies were flying, but no whistle. MacGillis alertly followed the play, picked up the loose ball at the baseline, backed up and laid it in for a 55-50 lead with 2:36 left.
"That Michigan trap really helped us," MacGillis said. "We turned them over a lot of times [five in the fourth quarter and 19 times on the night] and got some layups. That really helped when we were down by eight.
"That three [his score early in the fourth] and coming back with that block kind of changed the intensity of the game."
But it wasn't over yet.
Mustang sophomore Alfonse Hale launched a long-range 3 to close the gap to 55-53 with 1:46 to play. Hale hit four bombs on the night for a game-high 22 points.
Hudson began milking the clock with 1:35 left when Beck rebounded a missed one-and-one opportunity by Maple Heights.
After a time-out, the Explorers circled another play with an inbounds pass from Beck to Meder for a layup and a 57-53 edge.
Maple misfired on two late 3-point tries and Meder and Parker iced the win with a pair of free throws each in the final seconds.
Meder ended with a 10-of-11 performance at the foul line and a team-high 19 points. Parker added a 7-of-10 night at the stripe as Hudson converted 21-of-28 to the Mustangs' 5-of-12.
Parker had 11 points, 5 rebounds and 4 steals off the bench.
Hudson outrebounded Maple 31-23 and outshot the Mustangs from the field 19-of-38 to 21-of-59.
"We are obviously disappointed with the execution," Brink said. "We committed twenty-plus turnovers, but found a way to get a win. That's a silver lining.
"We changed the tempo defensively to try to speed the game up in our favor. The lineup we played in the fourth quarter [mostly Parker, MacGillis, O'Connor, Beck, Meder and Mike Piekarski] did a tremendous job finding a way to get a gut-check win.
"Our defensive intensity in the fourth was the difference in the game. We have to get back in the lab and fix some things. We looked like a team that's only practiced for two days. All we can do is try to persevere and continue to get better."
Hudson was scheduled to visit Suburban League National Conference rival North Royalton Dec. 11 before heading to Youngstown East Dec. 12. Both contests were not available at press time.
The Explorers are set to visit National Conference foe Cuyahoga Falls Dec. 18. Game time is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.