MACEDONIA — Sarah Hinkle didn’t need a tap on the shoulder.
She didn’t require a sticky note and she certainly was in no mood to be chastised or lectured.
The tireless backcourt standout knew all about her not-so-memorable first 16 minutes during Monday’s Suburban League National Conference showdown.
And those who reminded her about her struggles may have gotten the evil eye from the Hudson junior guard.
“In the second half, my teammates kept getting on me,” Hinkle said. “I was like, ‘I don’t want to hear it.’”
Hinkle, a starter who does just about everything for the Explorers, did very little against a squad that has had her team’s number over the years.
Hinkle felt revitalized when she returned from the locker room. And the Hudson girls basketball team feels revitalized as well after finally claiming some bragging rights against a longtime nemesis.
The Explorers earned a sweep against host Nordonia after posting a thrilling 37-35 victory at Hugh Griffith Memorial Gymnasium in Macedonia.
Hinkle scored all of her team-high 11 points in the second half as Hudson rallied from a nine-point deficit.
The Explorers also topped the Knights 43-42 in an eerily similar contest Dec. 5 at Ray “Buck” Hyser Gymnasium.
In all fairness, Nordonia has been a shadow of itself this season.
Due to the losses of all-conference players Soleil Barnes, who moved to Michigan last year, and Lizzie Imrie, who is out for the season with a knee injury, the Knights haven’t had the same kind of firepower they had in years past.
Nonetheless, this Nordonia team is no slouch by any means.
The Knights handed Aurora, which boasts a 14-game winning streak and is the top seed at the Ravenna Division I sectional-district tournament, its only loss.
As for Hinkle, who had been one of many victims of Nordonia’s bullying tactics prior to this season, Monday’s triumph was certainly one she will not take for granted any time soon.
“That was a huge win for us because in the past few years we haven’t even come close to beating them,” Hinkle said. “We were all so nervous because we beat them the first time. We can’t lose to them the second time.”
They didn’t even though the game was in doubt until the closing moments.
Fittingly enough, Hinkle was the one who put Hudson ahead for good.
With about 30 seconds left, Hinkle gave the Explorers a 36-35 lead when her running floater from the right side found the middle of the backboard before ricocheting in the opposite direction through the hoop.
Hudson’s defense then got a crucial stop, a critical offensive rebound and another point, thanks to a free throw by senior guard Kendall Paltani.
At one point, the Explorers trailed 8-0 and 17-8. Although Hudson’s train refueled with eight straight points to close the first half, its heart-and-soul playmaker seemed to be languishing on the caboose.
“I didn’t have a good first half,” Hinkle admitted. “I turned it over a few times.”
Hinkle felt much more comfortable after getting a breather.
She scored eight points in the third quarter, which included back-to-back 3-pointers to give the Explorers a 26-19 lead.
“Sarah is our workhorse,” Hudson head coach Dennis Lawler said. “She brings the ball up for us; she rebounds. She is just a tremendous leader. The kids respect her. She leads by example.”
Ironically, Hinkle felt some harrowing dark clouds dancing in her head before the game. Of course, it’s a safe bet she didn’t think this prophecy would be nearly as impactful once the ball was tipped.
“We didn’t have a lot of confidence coming into this game,” Hinkle said. “We had a rough warm-up. We weren’t focused.”
The Explorers have experienced an up-and-down season thus far. With the win, Hudson improved to a modest 9-12 overall and 7-6 in the National Conference.
However, the Explorers will get a fresh start Saturday when they are scheduled to visit Cuyahoga Falls for a Division I sectional semifinal contest.
A blue-collar, grind-it-out victory against a solid squad with some quality wins on its résumé can only help Hinkle and her pals when they tackle the do-or-die chaos known as the postseason.
“It was a really good win for us,” Hinkle said. “To win another close game, that really gives us some confidence going into the postseason.
“We know those games are going to be close and we have to deal with the pressure.”
Whether Hudson can pull off any more upsets is a question that will be answered in the near future. One way or another, the Explorers will be in good hands.
That’s because a gritty junior should be back on Hudson’s train when the gym is open for business again some nine months from now.
“She wears her emotions on her sleeve,” Lawler said. “She wears her heart on her sleeve. We’re just happy to have her for another year.”
Reporter Frank Aceto can be reached at 330-541-9444, firstname.lastname@example.org or @FrankAceto_RPC.