HUDSON - Emma Messina may have suffered from temporary amnesia.
Her risky but successful pass somehow navigated through traffic and found a teammate, who scored a critical basket against a longtime nemesis.
But the Hudson senior guard admitted she was completely in a daze during that entire thrilling, but extremely stressful situation.
"What was going through my head?" Messina said. "I honestly didn’t know. I didn’t think about it."
She didn’t need to.
Messina and the Explorers have finally ended their Nordonia curse.
Thanks to Messina’s clutch play, the Hudson girls basketball team finally got past the Knights with a dramatic 43-42 victory. The contest took place Wednesday at Ray "Buck" Hyser Gymnasium.
With 10 seconds left, the Explorers, trailing 42-41, called their final timeout.
Hudson had the ball underneath the basket and the inbound pass quickly went to Messina, who has been the Explorers’ most dangerous threat from the perimeter ever since she put on a varsity uniform.
But Messina, who was near the foul line, found herself in a bit of a logjam.
An open shot was nonexistent as Nordonia’s defenders made sure Hudson’s sharpshooter had little room to operate.
With the clock winding down, Messina had to act quickly.
She swung her arms violently in front of her and then leapt into the air. Messina brashly fired the ball toward the left side of the hoop.
The pass was incredibly dangerous. That’s because the Knights’ talented 6-foot-1 sophomore guard/forward, Madison Cluse, was lurking nearby.
"It was a risky pass," Messina admitted. "I usually throw those (passes). I knew it was going to be a hard pass to get over Cluse. She’s an amazing player."
Messina’s pinpoint pass whipped just past Cluse’s fingertips and into the hands of her teammate, Anastasia Lawler.
"I saw her at the last second," Messina said. "I knew the seconds we’re winding down on me. I was like, ‘She’s wide open.’ I knew I had to get it over Cluse. Once again, she’s phenomenal."
Lawler, a junior guard, made sure Messina’s bold decision wasn’t made in vain.
She caught the ball in stride and banked the ball in for a layup with approximately five seconds left.
"It was set up for either Emma or (freshman guard) Ali (Menendez) to get a shot," Lawler said. "Cluse was guarding me, so she was on (the) help side, so the seal wasn’t going to help on (Hudson freshman forward) Delaney (DiGeronimo). I just caught Emma’s pass. It was a great pass."
Nordonia still had the final shot and the ball went to - surprise - Cluse.
Such a situation may have seemed comforting since the Knights had very little time to go the length of the court.
But the Explorers knew better.
With time running out at the end of the first half, Cluse calmly sank a 3-pointer off the glass from just past the midcourt line. That buzzer beater gave Nordonia a 26-19 lead.
Could lightning strike twice on the home team at the place Hudson fans affectionately refer to as "The Buck?"
With the ball at midcourt after a Knights’ timeout and 1.4 seconds left, Cluse took a quick dribble and launched another prayer from near midcourt.
The ball found the left side of the backboard before falling harmlessly to the floor as time expired.
"They ran a nice play to get Cluse the shot," Explorers head coach Dennis Lawler said. "We’re just thankful it didn’t go in."
As for Messina, such an outcome was especially sweet for the resilient senior.
She missed several games last season after tearing her anterior cruciate ligament and is still trying to get back in the swing of things.
"I know it’s frustrating for her," Coach Lawler said. "She wants to make up for the 10 or 11 games she missed. She wants to be out there and we want her to be out there, but we have a long season."
The head coach has had much trouble convincing his somewhat hard-headed senior to be patient and pick her spots.
However, he hardly minds these clashes with his gritty 5-7 guard.
Messina is the type of player who will push for time on the floor even if half her limbs are missing.
"We still have 2-½, three months to go," Coach Lawler said. "We’re not trying to burn her out early. I know she gets frustrated with me and that’s OK. I love that kid. I know she wants to be out there and I just want to ease her back in."
Messina nearly had her night end early in the second half.
She injured her healthy knee as she drew a foul while attacking the basket. Messina made both free throws before heading to the sideline for treatment.
As it turns out, though, the strong-willed teenager got back in the saddle in no time.
And this time, she is determined to stay on her horse for good.
"I feel great," Messina said. "Nordonia was a key game for us. I figure it really sets the way for how Hudson basketball is going to be this year."
Reporter Frank Aceto can be reached at 330-541-9444, email@example.com or @FrankAceto_RPC.