HUDSON — The Twinsburg girls basketball team took part in a situation that has been a rare occurrence in recent weeks.
That would be closing out a game when it has a substantial advantage.
“Honestly, we haven’t played with a lead enough,” first-year Tigers head coach Jess Mazanetz admitted.
Twinsburg may still need a few lessons on how to master the art of finishing.
But the Tigers still have the Explorers mastered.
Twinsburg earned a season sweep against its Suburban League National Conference rival after posting a convincing 62-44 victory over host Hudson Wednesday at Ray “Buck” Hyser Gymnasium.
With the win, the Tigers (7-10, 6-6), who have owned their neighbors to the south in the past decade, demoralized the Explorers with their domination on the glass.
Twinsburg eventually built a double-digit lead in the third quarter and appeared to be in control. However, the Tigers elected to push the pace and launch quick jumpers despite being ahead by a comfortable margin.
“Probably my last three timeouts, that’s what we talked about,” Mazanentz said with a chuckle. “We’re still working on game situations. I actually thought they executed better at that than we did other times. Once we get in that mode, it’s hard to slow them down.”
It’s hard to slow anyone down if that person always has the ball.
Despite shooting just 37 percent from the floor (23 of 63), Twinsburg regularly cashed in on second-chance opportunities by ruling the boards. The Tigers had a 38-21 edge on the glass.
“They killed us on the boards,” Hudson head coach Dennis Lawler said. “We have to find a way to rebound. We just didn’t chase the ball down (Wednesday).
“It’s tough when you’re trying a junk-up defense a little bit and those kids are out of rebounding situations. I think that’s what hurt us is their second shots.”
Twinsburg also exploited the Explorers’ major weakness that has haunted them throughout the winter.
Hudson didn’t make very many buckets.
The Explorers converted just 26 percent (13 of 50) of their shots, including many from point-blank range.
While the Tigers didn’t light it up either, they had a knack for locating the ball for second, third and fourth opportunities.
“It’s deflating when that happens, especially when you’re trying to battle back to get into the game,” Lawler said. “I feel we didn’t play well rebounding-wise and yet, we’re still in the game.”
The Explorers (8-10, 6-6), who trailed 29-22 at halftime, also couldn’t take what was given to them. Hudson made just 13 of 24 shots from the free throw line.
Mazanetz certainly didn’t think the game was a walkover. While Twinsburg was up a majority of the time, the Explorers had a knack for hanging around even if they were often overmatched.
“I want to give Dennis a lot of credit,” Mazanetz said. “His kids play their butts off. They work really, really hard.
“Even with the lead in the third quarter, we were still playing a little bit tense because they can make a run. They have some shooters and they play really hard defense.”
Junior guard Alana Ellis, who scored 38 points during the Tigers’ 64-38 win over Hudson last month, finished with a game-high 17 points.
Ellis got plenty of attention from white and blue jerseys throughout the evening. The Explorers also threw triangle-and-two looks to make her uncomfortable.
“She’s a good player,” Lawler said. “She’s very athletic, and that makes it hard to guard her because she can go get some second-chance points. She got out in transition as well.
“I thought we controlled her pretty well for a good portion.”
Fortunately for Ellis, she got a significant amount of help from her friends.
Sophomore guard Jada Austin broke down the Explorers’ defense regularly and finished with 16 points, and sweet-shooting freshman guard Logan Pride knocked down four 3-pointers on her way to 15 points.
A few less-heralded members also shined for Twinsburg, which was missing its starting senior forward. Kyndall Hill sprained her ankle earlier in the week and did not play.
“(Junior) Faith Gregory stepped up a lot,” Mazanetz said. “Alana is obviously our go-to player. Those underclassmen have certainly grown a lot as the year progressed.”
Junior guard Anastasia Lawler came off the bench to lead Hudson with 11 points. Senior guard Sarah Hinkle finished with nine points for the Explorers.
“We just have to get better in being more aggressive,” Lawler said. “We’re shying away from the contact a little bit.”
Reporter Frank Aceto can be reached at 330-541-9444, firstname.lastname@example.org or @FrankAceto_RPC.