HUDSON — Considering that its top shooting threat just returned from a serious injury and two other freshmen were thrown into the rotation, the Hudson girls basketball team wasn’t exactly ready to compete for a conference championship Wednesday night.
Nonetheless, it wasn’t exactly the season debut Explorers head coach Dennis Lawler had in mind.
Host Hudson made an inauspicious 2018-19 debut after falling to Bainbridge Township Kenston 63-35 at Ray "Buck" Hyser Gymnasium.
The Bombers broke away with seven straight points after a 9-9 deadlock to close the first quarter and then took total command in the second period.
Kenston, which improved to 1-1, closed the half with an 11-2 run to take a commanding 39-17 lead at halftime.
The Bombers didn’t look back the rest of the way.
"We played tentatively," Lawler said. "I thought we played scared a little bit. I pleaded with them yesterday and today and in the pregame to just go out and play basketball. We didn’t play anywhere near like we did in the scrimmages."
The catalyst for Kenston’s first-half dominance was junior forward Rachel Apshago, who scored 16 points in the first 16 minutes.
Ten of those points took place in the second quarter as Apshago used an assortment of jumpers and fast-break layups to attack the Explorers (0-1).
"She (Apshago) played a big role for them last year," Lawler said. "She’s a good attacker of the basket."
The Bombers ran away from Hudson mainly because they turned their fast-break attack into overdrive.
They got plenty of assistance from the opposition as Kenston ran roughshod over the Explorers’ trademark full-court pressure.
The Explorers didn’t help matters much on offense, either.
Hudson, which committed 24 turnovers for the evening, had ball-handling issues and it struggled to find the basket from long range and point-blank range.
The Explorers seemed a bit too comfortable settling for jump shots. They did not attempt a single free throw in the first half.
"We were tentative offensively in the beginning," Lawler said. "Three-point shooting is going to be part of our offense, but I thought we shied away from contact.
"I think they (the Bombers) only had one or two fouls in the first half. It wasn't the refs’ fault. It was our lack of being physically aggressive."
The Bombers, on the other hand, had no problems attacking Hudson any chance they got.
And since the Explorers struggled to make shots and generate any consistent possessions throughout the evening, Kenston didn’t need a full-balanced offensive attack.
In fact, just two Bomber players accounted for enough firepower to match Hudson’s entire point production.
Despite hitting the brakes in the second half, Asphago finished with 18 points and junior guard Graci Skala scored a game-high 19 points.
"You have to give them (the Bombers) credit," Lawler said. "They shot the ball well. They shot the ball way better than they did against Wadsworth."
As his teams have typically done during Lawler’s 13 years with the team, the Explorers continued to scrap and focused on trying to learn from their mistakes as the game progressed.
Such a sight was a pleasant one for the veteran coach.
"We finally had some grit in the second half," Lawler said. "The one thing I was worried about was that they (the Bombers) had a game under their belt."
Senior center Rayonna Peterson added nine points for Kenston. Freshman guard Ali Menendez led Hudson with 10 points.
The Explorers converted just 5 of 19 shots from the foul line. Hudson did welcome back senior shooting guard Emma Messina, who played limited minutes after missing much of last season with a knee injury.
Menendez and freshman forward Delaney DiGeronimo made their varsity debuts and played significant minutes.
"I think it’s first-game jitters," Lawler said. "We got two kids, one of them just came back and one of them hasn’t played in three years, and two freshmen."
Lawler is certainly not ready to panic. It was a step backwards after some promising play in the scrimmages, but there is plenty of time to shape and mold these unpolished rocks into diamonds.
"In our scrimmages, we’ve been a two-way team," Lawler said. "Sometimes, when shots aren’t falling, you have to attack the rim and hopefully, get a layup and see the ball go through the hoop.
"I’m disappointed for them and I’m disappointed. We had had a nice crowd. We got pushed around a little bit, but we’ll get better as the year goes on."
Reporter Frank Aceto can be reached at 330-541-9444, email@example.com or @FrankAceto_RPC.