AUSTINTOWN — Last winter, the Hudson boys basketball team got off on the wrong foot with a pair of last-second losses.
Thus far, there was no heartbreak for the Explorers.
In fact, Hudson’s 2018-19 season is off to a fine start.
The Explorers made a stellar season debut with a convincing 61-38 victory over host Austintown-Fitch Tuesday.
Hudson jumped out to an 8-0 lead by forcing four turnovers and holding the Falcons scoreless in their first six possessions.
Fitch stayed within striking distance, trailing by just nine (35-26) late in the third quarter.
But the Explorers outscored the Falcons 24-7 in the next eight minutes to take complete command.
Despite its second-half dominance, Hudson head coach Jeff Brink believes his team still has plenty of work to do.
"It was the first game and it looked like a first game," he said. "It wasn’t clean by any means and it has to be better.
"We’re not going to apologize for a 23-point win. We won five games last year. We’re trying to win games. If you have to win ugly, win ugly. We have to find ways to get Ws."
The ugly side of this win was the Explorers’ 4-of-16 effort from the free throw line and early problems keeping Fitch off the boards.
The Falcons had a 34-33 edge on the glass despite Hudson’s 15-7 rebounding advantage during its second-half explosion.
That was about the only thing the Falcons did better.
The Explorers converted 7 of 19 3-point attempts compared to 3 of 10 for Fitch.
Hudson forced 21 turnovers with its full-court press.
The Explorers, on the other hand, lost the ball 12 times against the Falcons’ heavy pressure.
"Defensively, our pressure was pretty good," Brink said. "We did turn them over. Obviously, our goal was to heat them up and create some transition scores. We did do that.
"The defense was the key. Any time you keep a team under 40, that’s pretty much where we want to be."
On the offensive end, Hudson got points pretty much where it expected to.
Last season’s top four scorers on the year were the top four on the night. While the top two, William Wallace (13.4 points per game) and Jack Burdett (12.4) were held in check in the first half with one point between them, Damani Ganaway-Glave kept the ship afloat.
The 5-foot-9 junior hit career highs with four 3-pointers (on seven attempts) and 18 points to lead the Explorers. He had 12 in the first half with Hudson taking a 23-13 lead into intermission.
"Damani did a great job early in the game," Brink said. "We had that lead that we never relinquished. He gave us that separation early. His first quarter was phenomenal."
Ganaway, who averaged 7.9 points per game last winter, scored the Explorers’ final seven points of the first quarter after guard Aaron Martin scored the game’s first five points on his way to an 11-point night. Ganaway drained one triple in each period.
"We’ve grown so much as a team," Ganaway-Glave said. "Last year, it was my first year playing varsity and we had to know our roles. I didn’t really know my role until the end of the season.
"Now I am more comfortable. We are way more comfortable. We’re more experienced and we know what our roles are. We play very unselfishly as a team."
Despite slow starts, Burdett finished with 12 points and 11 rebounds and Wallace scored eight points.
"It wasn’t our best game, but I like that our playmakers stepped up and made plays when we had to," Brink said.
Hudson’s junior varsity team lost 45-44. Joe Walsh scored 11 points in one half of action, while Aiden Lal and Joe Teodosio each had nine points apiece.