SOLON -- After his team won its postseason opener, Hudson head girls basketball coach Dennis Lawler reminded his players of the 1985 NCAA championship game.

The eighth-seeded Villanova Wildcats shocked the world when they upset top-seeded Georgetown 66-64.

Veteran Lady Explorers head coach Dennis Lawler knew his team needed a Villanova-like upset to knock off a very talented Solon team, which advanced to the state semifinals last season.

The Lady Explorers gave the might Lady Comets everything they had, but they simply did not have enough weapons to match Solon's plethora of athletes.

As a result, ninth-seeded Hudson's season came to a close after falling to the top-seeded Lady Comets 80-40 in a Euclid Division I sectional title game Feb. 23 on the road.

At one point, it was 10-9 when senior guard Ava Cristofoli knocked down a 3-pointer midway through the first quarter.

It was never that close again.

Solon, which had 10 players score at least one point, went on a 24-2 run to take complete control early in the second quarter.

Nonetheless, Lawler had nothing but praise for his team. Despite finishing 8-16 this season, Hudson's players never lost their enthusiasm and they kept their motors running at full force until the very end.

"The girls played their tails off," Lawler said. "The biggest compliment I can give them is they didn't play like their record. They played hard every game.

"That's a testament to the kids' effort and heart. I can't thank them enough for how hard they worked."

The Lady Comets (21-2) had a bevy of players hit shots during that spurt and they overwhelmed the Lady Explorers with their relentless, pressing, trapping defense that caused all kinds of turnovers.

"You have to give Solon credit," Lawler said. "They had some kids hit shots. We got off to a good start, but they got off to a good start, too."

If Hudson wasn't turning it over, it was making shots from long range.

The Lady Explorers made 10 3-pointers on the evening, including six in the first half.

Unfortunately, Hudson had its pockets picked 28 times.

"We tried to take our time against their press," Lawler said. "They wanted to speed us up. We needed to take care of the basketball."

The Lady Comets, which lost the ball 14 times, turned the game into a track meet and the Lady Explorers couldn't keep up.

Solon had a 48-25 advantage at halftime and never saw its lead get below 22 the rest of the way.

Senior guard Alexis Stover, who recently signed to continue her academic and basketball careers at Ohio University in Athens, led the Lady Comets with 16 points.

Senior guard Dee Bekelja, who plans to play at DePaul University in Chicago, had 12 points and junior point guard Gabby Mitchell added 11 points for Solon.

Sophomore guard Emma Messina buried three 3-pointers on her way to a team-high 16 points for the Lady Explorers.

Junior point guard Elizabeth Hinkle and freshman guard Audrey Kirkhope-Moss each had 8 points. Rounding out the scoring for Hudson were senior guard Ava Cristofoli (6) and junior forward Traci Wright (2).

Although the Lady Explorers, who haven't had a winning record since the 2012-13 season, had their struggles, Lawler enjoyed coming to the court every day.

"I had a great time with them," he said. "They are great kids who work hard. They were a joy to be around every second of every day. There was not a single day where I thought, 'Gosh, do I have to go to practice?"

Lawler said goodbye to Cristofoli and senior forwards Elle Marquez and Clementine Couvat.

"They gave their heart and soul to the program," he said. "I hope I gave them a learning experience to help them grow as women. The wins and losses matter, but in the long run, you want to make them better people."


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