by Rob Barrone | Correspondent
Akron -- The big one got away.
But the Hudson boys basketball team gained a split in action last weekend.
In a Suburban League National Conference battle with huge title implications, the Explorers lost a tough one to first place Brecksville-Broadview Heights 56-54 Jan. 15 at Ray "Buck" Hyser Gymnasium.
Hudson fell to 3-3 in the Suburban League National Conference.
The Bees improved to 11-1 overall and 7-0 in the conference.
The Explorers (8-4) rebounded with a thrilling 45-44 victory over Kenmore Jan. 16 in Akron.
Zack Meder swished through a pair of free throws with 6 seconds to play and teammates Alex Beck and Spencer McClure combined to steal the ensuing inbound pass to secure the win.
"Coming off a tough loss [Jan. 15], it was a game we had to find a way to win," Hudson head coach Jeff Brink said. "It was ugly all the way around. We made a couple big plays at the end. It was not a work of art, but we'll take the win."
While the win wasn't pretty, the loss to the Bees was perhaps, the Explorers' best played game of the season.
Hudson shot the ball very well making 22-of-38 shots from the floor and 6-of-8 at the line.
In the end, Brecksville won at the line, making 9-of-11 foul shots in the fourth quarter and 15-of-19 for the game.
"I like what I [Jan. 15]." Brink said. "I thought it was the best game we played all year."
The Explorers came out of the gates on fire, hitting eight of their first nine shots. Hudson spotted the Bees a 5-0 lead before catching fire.
A 10-0 spurt that included back-to-back 3-pointers by Zack Meder and Isaac MacGillis helped the Explorers take an 18-12 lead after one period.
It was more of the same to open the second quarter.
Hudson forced three Brecksville turnovers and saw the Bees miss their first five shots of the frame. Meanwhile, Meder, who had a game-high 20 points, hit a pair of buckets and Dave O'Connor and Jackson Parker (eight points) each converted in the paint for another mini-spurt of 8-0. The lead was 26-12 midway through the second quarter.
Brecksville began chipping away at the deficit, cutting the margin to seven (29-22) by intermission.
Things still looked bright until late in the third quarter when the Bees got eight quick points from reserve guard P.J. Austin.
The senior sandwiched a pair of 3-pointers around his steal and breakaway layup. Just like that, a 37-29 advantage was gone and the score was knotted up at 37 with 49 seconds left in the third. Parker scored late to put Hudson back on top 39-37 after three.
With the game tied again at 39, Brecksville looked to take its first lead since the opening minutes as Dan Harwood (15 points) headed for a seemingly easy layup after a teammates steal. Beck made a play for the highlight reel, coming from nowhere to swat the attempt away.
"It was one of the best blocks I have seen in my life," Brink said. "Alex Beck played his best game of the year. He is getting better and better every game."
The effort temporarily slowed the Bees.
A Harwood bucket with 4:27 left gave Brecksville the lead for good at 45-43. After a Beck free throw with 4:15 left cut the margin to one, the Bees pulled the ball out.
The Explorers stayed within striking distance but 7-of-9 free throws by the Bees in the final 1 minute, 14 seconds were too much.
Two late free throws by Meder and a MacGillis' 3 at the buzzer made the final 56-54. MacGillis ended with 13 points and a team high-six boards.
"This was a tough one to lose," Brink said. "We just have to go day to day. We are going to need help [to catch the Bees], but we can't worry about that. We have to go game to game and let the chips fall where they may."
Getting that loss out of the Hudson players' heads was big at Kenmore. The Explorers completed a sweep of the Cardinals after the freshmen remained unbeaten (11-0) with a 66-21 drubbing of the Cards and the junior varsity blasted Kenmore 78-38.
Varsity backups Davey Spitz and Spencer McClure moved to the JV for the first time this season to get some extra minutes. The duo combined to score all of Hudson's points in a quick 16-0 spurt to start the junior varsity game.
By the end of the first quarter (29-11; Hudson) Spitz had 10 points and McClure had 14. The Explorers led 29-11 after one quarter of play.
"They [McClure and Spitz] are two key guys for our future now and down the road," Brink said. "They need to get more minutes. We need them to develop. They were able to step up in that JV game and get confidence in that first quarter."
Although he did not score, Spitz got some key minutes in the varsity win and McClure was huge. With just seven points all season coming in to the game, McClure, a junior guard made all three of his shots and finished with 9 points.
"Spencer was fantastic off the bench," Brink said. "He hit a couple big 3s and made good decisions with the ball. He did an admirable job and I thought Ryan Martin bought us some minutes off the bench with Isaac in foul trouble."
MacGillis had 10 points and 11 rebounds for Hudson. Meder led the way with 16 points.
At one point, the Explorers had a 43-38 lead. Holding the ball, MacGillis was swarmed by three Cardinals and fell to the floor.
MacGillis was called for traveling with 1:36 left and then Hudson missed two front ends of one-and-one opportunities.
With 20 seconds left, Kenmore took a 44-43 advantage when Demond Taylor scored on a putback.
With 12 seconds left, the Explorers inbounded the ball in front of their bench. Meder took the ball out from the left corner and then drove down the left side of the lane. He was fouled with 6 seconds to go.
Meder calmly converted both free throws for a 45-44 lead. Kenmore tried to force the inbound against Hudson's press. Beck deflected the pass into the waiting arms of McClure. McClure dribbled out the rest of the clock for the win.
"We had three different options off that last play," Brink said. "Zack saw the hole and took it to the rack. When the game's on the line, you want your best player to make a play and he made the play."
The freshman team cruised to a 47-22 win over Brecksville and a 66-21 victory over Kenmore.
William Wallace had 12 points and Brandon Lal 11 against the Bees. At Kenmore. Aaron Martin lead the effort with 12 points and Lal was next with 11 again.
The junior varsity team earned a commanding 78-38 win over the Cardinals after losing to Brecksville 59-46 the previous night.
Kevin McBride led the Explorers with 15 points and McClure and Spitz added 14 and 10 points, respectively.
Evan Jones had 14 points and Wallace finished with 10 points against the Bees.
All three teams were scheduled to host National Conference foe Nordonia Jan. 19. Results were not available at press time.
They are set to visit Nordonia Jan. 22 in Macedonia. Varsity tip time is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.