HUDSON -- Ryan Smith missed all five of his shots against Hudson Jan. 27 at Ray "Buck" Hyser Gymnasium.
But the Nordonia senior basketball player was perfect from the charity stripe.
As a result of Smith's clutch shooting, the Knights picked up their first Suburban League National Conference win.
The Explorers fell to 5-9 overall and 1-6 in the National Conference after losing to the Knights 44-40.
Smith, a 6-foot-7 forward made all six of his free-throw attempts, including four in a row during one-and-one situations down the stretch.
The win lifted Nordonia to 1-6 in conference play and 2-12 overall.
"Big free throws down the stretch," Knights' first-year head coach Mike Griffen said. "He has been in and out. He has a back problem. He had to play short stints. He toughed it out. You can't ask for much more."
Trailing 35-22 heading into the fourth quarter, Hudson rallied to score 12 unanswered points to close to 35-34 with 2 minutes, 56 seconds left to play and held Nordonia without a field goal the entire period.
The Knights countered, by converting 9-of-12 at the stripe down the stretch with Smith draining a pair with 26.4 on the clock (41-37) and 4 ticks left for the 44-40 final score.
Smith's late free throws ruined a great second half by Explorers' point guard Spencer McClure. The 6-foot senior matched a career high with 19 points, scoring 17 of them after intermission and 10 in the fourth-quarter rally. He also had 3 steals in the final period to help stymie the Knights' offense.
"He [McClure] had big shots and he played hard at the defensive end too," Hudson coach Jeff Brink said. "He hit a couple threes, took it to the rack. If he didn't make plays, we would have not been in that position to win the game."
McClure scored his team's first seven points in both the third and fourth quarters. In the fourth, his teammates took over from there with Alex Beck drilling a 3-pointer and Davey Spitz hitting both ends of a huge one-and-one situation to make the score 35-34 with 2:56 left.
The Knights, who were 0-for-4 previously from the floor in the period, did not shoot again from the field.
The game ultimately came down to one possession and one shot.
Trailing 39-37, the Explorers worked for a good shot and got it.
Sophomore William Wallace got an open look, from the right corner, for the lead. His shot rimmed out with Smith grabbing his fifth rebound and drawing a foul with the 26.4 ticks left.
"Wallace got a good look," Brink said. "He's a good player. The shot just went in and out. If you're talking about the deciding play, that was the big one. When you don't make plays earlier on, it puts you in a position when so much is riding on one shot."
Hudson didn't help itself at the free throw line either. The Explorers made just 5-of-11 shots from the charity stripe. Nonetheless, Brink was pleased to see his team nearly rally from a double-digit deficit.
"The guys responded in the fourth quarter with a tremendous effort," he said. "The first half was not what we wanted. They [the Knights] came out and played hard and we got out-worked.
"We did a really good job with the ball. What hurt us was execution and obviously shooting. This was the third or fourth game in a row that we have been at 35 percent or under. It's really tough to win at the high-school level when you shoot in the thirties."
Hudson shot 35 percent (15-of-42) and Nordonia was 13-of-34 (38 percent).
Tye Evans led the Knights with 10 points and Julius Jones added 8 points for Nordonia.
Hudson's junior varsity team went on a 29-9 run in the second half to earn a 42-27 win. With the victory, the Explorers improved to 11-4 overall and 4-3 in the conference.
Kevin McBride led Hudson with 15 points. The Explorers suffered a 57-52 defeat in the freshman game.
Hudson was scheduled to host National Conference rival North Royalton Jan. 31. Results were not available at press time.
The Explorers are set to entertain National Conference foe Cuyahoga Falls Feb. 3 at 7:30 p.m.