STOW — Parity has been a huge part of the Suburban League National Conference basketball story this season.
Week after week, a plethora of so-called "upsets" have been the norm as the regular season winds its way down to its conclusion.
The latest Friday night slate was no different as the Hudson boys team surprised host Stow-Munroe Falls 56-39 at James G. Tyree Gymnasium to put a significant hurt on the Bulldogs’ National Conference title aspirations
Or did it?
While the Explorers threw a wrench into Stow’s plans, conference leader Brecksville-Broadview stumbled as well, losing 72-56 to North Royalton.
Stow (9-9, 7-4) and Twinsburg (13-5, 8-4), which defeated Wadsworth 59-50 Friday, now trails Brecksville (13-5, 9-3) as the season heads into the final two weeks.
The Explorers (11-7, 6-6), on the other hand, are out of the race. But they can still be a factor with games against the Tigers Friday on the road and at home against Wadsworth Feb 22.
Hudson’s second encounter with the Bulldogs was unlike its first showdown in every way imaginable.
Stow had, perhaps, its best shooting performance of the season when it rolled to a 74-57 win over the Explorers last month.
Since then, there have been many twists and turns for the conference’s alleged "Usual Suspects."
"That has been the case all year long," Bulldogs head coach Dave Close said. "Top to bottom, this has been a very balanced league. Every Tuesday and Friday, there’s a shocking score in the paper.
"I always felt like Hudson was one of the best teams in the league this year. They have been up and down. We have all been up and down except Brecksville. It has been that kind of league. You can’t take anybody lightly or it’s going to bite you in the butt."
The Explorers came out of the gates nipping at Stow’s heels, taking the early lead and never relinquishing it.
Senior William Wallace, who scored 16 points, hit a 3-pointer from the left wing to start the scoring and he hit the same shot from the same spot for a 6-4 lead. Hudson held its advantage he rest of the way.
"Will Wallace got us off to a phenomenal start," Explorers head coach Jeff Brink said. "He was awesome."
Not to be outdone, Aaron Martin also had his way with the Bulldogs.
He finished with a game-high 23 points and made 7 of 8 free throws down the stretch to put the contest out of reach.
"Aaron Martin was so clutch at the free throw line," Brink said.
The Explorers, who earned their third straight win, executed a momentum-changing play to perfection at the end of the first half.
Inbounding in front of the Stow bench with just one second left on the clock, Wallace found Liam Brennan, who quickly got the ball back to Wallace for a buzzer-beating trey from the left wing.
That well-designed play gave Hudson a 28-23 lead at halftime.
"That 3 going into the half was a defining moment," Brink said. "The game had gotten back to a tight situation and that 3 kind of answered the bell. It was a great momentum boost to go into the third."
The momentum didn’t stop there for the Explorers.
Hudson opened the second half on a 9-0 run to take control.
Patience was the theme for Hudson the rest of the way as it worked the ball around the court to burn the clock.
"Hudson executed well," Close said. "They got good looks. They got good shots. They were disciplined and patient and executed their game plan."
Since they had the lead, the Explorers held all of the cards. Therefore, picking up the pace and going for the dagger were outlawed from Hudson’s playbook.
"This was one where you had to sacrifice some of your personal statistics to make sure we had a better shot," Brink said. "We did a phenomenal job of being patient."
The Bulldogs’ 6-foot-10 stretch four, Evan Bainbridge, a Kent State University recruit, scored 16 points and added eight rebounds. Jack Wilson added 11 points for Stow.
Jack Burdett had eight rebounds for the Explorers, who had a 25-15 edge on the glass.
The Bulldogs shot just 35 percent (13 of 37) from the floor. Hudson, on the other hand, converted 49 percent of its shooting attempts (20 of 41).
"I want to say how proud I am of our guys," Brink said. "We literally had one day of prep for a big rival game.
"We came off a physical battle on Wednesday (a 68-43 win at Youngstown East) banged up. We put in a game plan and I thought it was one of the best executions of a game plan that we have had in the past three years."
The Explorers lost 37-30 in the junior varsity contest. Tyler Miller led Hudson with eight points.
The Explorers earned a 55-44 win in the freshman contest. Ryan Evans led Hudson with 21 points.