MACEDONIA — In a time frame that has reached several years, the Nordonia girls basketball team had owned its rivals to the south.
Not this season.
It’s Hudson’s turn to torment a now former nemesis.
The Explorers improved to 9-12 overall and 7-6 in the Suburban League National Conference after earning a 37-35 victory over the host Knights Monday at Hugh Griffith Memorial Gymnasium in Macedonia.
Hudson swept Nordonia after being on the other side of the equation for what seems like forever.
The Explorers also got a 43-42 win over the Knights Dec. 5 at Ray “Buck” Hyser Gymnasium.
Like the December showdown, this one came to down to the final seconds.
Like the December showdown, Nordonia’s final shot didn’t go in the basket.
Knights’ freshman guard Ella Gorta’s shot from near the foul line went in and out of the cup as time expired.
“It was a knockdown drag-out fight the first time and it was a knockdown drag-out fight the second time,” Hudson head coach Dennis Lawler said. “I have a lot of respect for (Knights head coach) Julie (Buckler) and her program. Her kids work hard and they play the game the right way.”
Buckler felt her team’s lack of execution of simple, fundamental plays made a huge difference.
“We just stopped doing the little things,” she said. “We let them get open shots. In the long run, Hudson played hard.
“It doesn’t come down to one play. It doesn’t come down to one situation. But little things add up in the end.”
The Explorers took the lead for good (36-35) when junior guard Sarah Hinkle converted a running floater off the glass with approximately 30 seconds left.
Hudson let its defense and its ability to crash the boards take over from there.
After getting a stop, Explorers’ junior guard Anastasia Lawler got fouled. She missed the front of a one-and-one situation, but her teammate, senior guard Kendall Paltani, got the offensive rebound.
Paltani, a standout field hockey player who didn’t see a lot of minutes Monday, drew contact after grabbing the loose ball and wound up making one of two foul shots with 10.3 seconds left.
“Kendall did a great job,” Coach Lawler said. “Kendall’s stat line might have been a minute, two minutes total into the game. The girl went out, hustled and got a defensive stop.
“She got the offensive rebound, made the extra free throw to get us up two and did a great job doubling their best player (6-foot-1 sophomore guard/forward Madison Cluse). No matter how much time you get, those minutes are important in every game to everybody. She did exactly what we needed her to do.”
Nordonia (10-10, 7-6) took an 8-0 lead and after the Explorers tied the game with eight straight points of their own, the Knights went on a 9-0 run.
The game stayed close the rest of the way as neither team ignited their offense throughout the evening.
“With the inexperience of our players, it kind of depends on the emotional state,” Buckler said. “They were excited, but we would get momentum and then lose momentum. It was one of those roller-coaster games.”
Hinkle led Hudson with 11 points as nine Explorers scored at least one point.
Cluse, who had a 3-pointer find rim at the buzzer when the two teams met in December, scored 11 points for the Knights.
“Cluse is a tough player both offensively and defensively,” Coach Lawler said. “She’s a great player. She’s long and athletic.
“We were keying on her mostly. They ran the play for her last time at our place so we knew she was going to be a good option for them.”
Lawler sent the brigade to neutralize Cluse and Nordonia’s sharpshooting sophomore guard Hallie Majoros.
“Anastasia, (senior forward) Taylor (Miller) and (freshman guard) Delaney (DiGeronimo) had her (Cluse) and (freshman guard) Ali (Menendez) and Kendall and we switched Delaney and (senior guard) Abby (Wickerham) had Majoros,” Coach Lawler said. “We were hoping to contain them and stay in the game.”
Freshman guard/forward Kennedy Syllaba added eight points for Nordonia.
Although Majoros scored zero points, Buckler certainly didn’t think her talented sophomore was a nonfactor. She felt the same way about senior guard Sion Williams, who, despite spending a large amount of time off the floor because of foul trouble, was the team’s leading cheerleader on the bench.
“She cut hard; she opened things up for her teammates; she played great defense,” Buckler said of Majoros. “I think she stepped up not necessarily in the scoring aspect but in the stuff you don’t necessarily see all the time.
“Sion is the top supporter. She’s the voice of the bench when she’s not on the floor. She gets the bench going; she gets her teammates going on the court. She brings energy.”
Both teams have seen their share of peaks and valleys this winter. They hope to get their acts together quickly as the postseason draws near.
For Buckler, her puzzle remains unfinished.
“There are highs and there are lows,” Buckler said. “The lows are low. We’re still trying to piece together different aspects.”
Reporter Frank Aceto can be reached at 330-541-9444, firstname.lastname@example.org or @FrankAceto_RPC.