HUDSON — Down and just about out, the Hudson girls basketball team was on the verge of falling to an opponent that had zero conference wins.
And then an unlikely heroine made everything right again for the Lady Explorers.
Her name is Dai’Shunai Steward.
The host Hudson girls basketball team earned its second straight conference victory after posting a thrilling come-from-behind 37-36 win over Brecksville-Broadview Heights Saturday evening at Ray "Buck" Hyser Gymnasium.
With the victory, the Lady Explorers improved to 4-8 overall and 3-5 in the Suburban League National Conference. The Lady Bees dropped to 1-11 overall and 0-8 in the conference.
Leading 36-35 with a little more than 30 seconds left, Brecksville had the ball and was in the double-bonus situation.
But Steward spoiled the Lady Bees’ chances of ending a 10-game losing streak.
The junior forward stole the ball and immediately got fouled.
Steward banked in her first free throw high off the glass. Her second foul shot, on the other hand, was far less dramatic.
It touched nothing but net.
And that wasn’t all.
Steward took a charge on the next possession to give her team the ball back.
"Dai is somebody we want to go in there and give us some energy," Lawler said. "She stepped up. We went to our man to man and she caused havoc. She hit two huge free throws and took a huge charge."
As it has been for much of the season, it was a struggle for Hudson.
The Lady Explorers were beaten to loose balls for much of the evening against a very resilient Brecksville squad.
Even after Steward scored the go-ahead points, Hudson still had difficulty putting the game away.
The Lady Explorers missed two free throws and the Lady Bees still had a shot to win it in the final seconds.
A long jumper by junior guard Christy Pitzer went off the rim, but her teammate, senior guard Marissa Demeo, got the offensive rebound.
Demeo’s shot from approximately 10 feet away went off the iron as the buzzer sounded.
"Give them credit," Lawler said of his players. "Before the Christmas break, we probably lose this game."
At one point, Brecksville led by five with about three minutes left. Pitzer drained a 3-pointer to give the Lady Bees a 33-28 advantage.
Trailing by four (36-32), Hudson got a critical basket from an underclassman, who got a rare start.
Sophomore guard Audrey Kirkhope-Moss attacked the basket despite heavy traffic and got a tough shot to find the net off the glass.
Kirkhope-Moss also was fouled on the play and her free throw cut Brecksville’s lead to a single point (36-35) with a little more than 90 seconds left.
"We talked about attacking the basket," Lawler said. "We were in the double bonus."
Kirkhope-Moss got the start for Emma Messina, who did not dress due to a knee injury she suffered during the Lady Explorers’ 44-42 home win over Cuyahoga Falls last Wednesday.
While the game was close throughout the evening, the Lady Bees had a 38-26 edge on the glass and got to far more loose balls than Hudson did.
"We’re trying to get them fired up because they were beating us to 50-50 balls," Lawler said. "Emma might be out for the season. We’re learning to be more aggressive. They responded."
Both teams had trouble taking care of the ball and making shots.
Brecksville committed 24 turnovers, while the Lady Explorers lost the ball 23 times, including eight giveaways in the fourth quarter.
Steward wound up making 5 of 6 foul shots to account for all of her points. Hudson, which has had major issues at the charity stripe, had one of its better efforts. The Lady Explorers converted 12 of 19 free throws. The Lady Bees made 10 of 19 from the foul line.
Neither team found much offensive rhythm. Hudson converted just 11 of 49 shots, while Brecksville shot just 12 of 52.
Kirkhope-Moss led the Lady Explorers with 13 points and Pitzer finished with 11 points for the Lady Bees.
"(Senior forward) Heather Whitacre stepped up and got some rebounds and some extra possessions," Lawler said. "We’ve had a couple of close games. We’re learning how to win."
Hudson is scheduled to visit conference rival North Royalton Wednesday at 7 p.m. The Lady Explorers are set to entertain conference foe Nordonia Jan. 20 at 7:30 p.m.