Parity has been a huge part of the Suburban League basketball during the 2018-19 campaign.
The latest Friday night slate was no different as the Hudson boys team surprised host Stow-Munroe 56-39 to put a significant hurt on the Bulldogs National Conference title aspirations. But while the Explorers were throwing a wrench into the finish, front running Brecksville lost 72-56 to North Royalton.
"We are still in it mathematically," Stow coach Dave Close after the loss that snapped a three-game win streak.
However, the Bulldogs’ title hopes may have been dealt a final blow Tuesday at Wadsworth with a 49-39 loss.
Stow’s record moved to 9-10, 7-5 in the National Conference with the losse
Some might call Hudson’s win at Stow an upset since they themselves were knocked out of the title chase weeks ago when they lost four straight conference games.
That losing streak started with a 74-57 loss to a then sub-500 Stow squad. At the time, the Explorers were tied for first place at 3-1 but fell on hard times.
How’s that for league parity?
"That’s been the case all year long. Top to bottom this has been a very balanced league. Every Tuesday and Friday there’s a shocking score in the paper," Close said. "I always felt like Hudson was one of the best team’s in the league this year. They have been up and down; we have been all been up and down except Brecksville. It’s been that kind of league. You can’t take anybody lightly or it’s going to bite you in the butt."
Hudson came out of the gates nipping at the Dawgs hind quarters taking the early lead and never relinquishing it. Senior William Wallace hit a three-ball from the left wing to start the scoring and two Explorer possessions later he hit the same shot from the same spot for a 6-4 lead. Hudson would hold the lead the rest of the way.
Wallace ended with 16 points.
"Will Wallace got us off to a phenomenal start. He was awesome tonight and Aaron Martin was so clutch at the free throw line (Martin was 7-8 at the line down the stretch for a game high 23 points)," Hudson Coach Jeff Brink said.
With the victory the Explorers extended their own win streak to three.
Hudson played nearly flawless in the first quarter making 6-12 shots without a turnover but led by just 15-12 at the first stop. Stow’s Jack Wilson kept his club in the hunt knocking down a pair of three pointers late to close what was a 13-6 Hudson lead to the 15-12 score.
Wilson ended with 11 points.
"Hudson executed well. They got good looks. They got good shots. They were disciplined and patient and executed their game plan. I think both teams came out kind of flat looking at the warm-ups. They got some good looks early and made some shots that gave them a lot of confidence," Close said.
"We weren’t aggressive and didn’t play with a lot of fire on either end of the floor early. That kind of set the tempo for the rest of the game we just couldn’t wrestle the tempo back."
Stow’s 6-10 post Evan Bainbridge took over in the second quarter scoring seven of his team-high 16 points in the frame.
Despite the senior’s efforts, Hudson extended their lead to 28-23 at intermission. Martin scored three times in the period that ended with a bang for Hudson.
In-bounding in front of the Stow bench with just one second on the clock, Wallace found Liam Brennan who in turn quickly got the ball back to Wallace for a buzzer beating trey from the left wing.
"That three going into the half was a defining moment," Brink said. "The game had gotten back to a tight situation and that three kind of answered the bell. It was a great momentum boost to go into the third on."
The Explorers opened the third with a 9-0 swing to take control. Peyton Koscho hit for two and Martin added two more lay-ups to start the half.
Four minutes later Anthony Chokenea hit a three from the right corner to up the lead to 31-23. The Bulldogs finally got on the scoreboard with 1:28 left in the third on a drive by the 6-1 Wilson.
Hudson led 41-28 after three.
Patience was the theme for the Explorers the rest of the way as they worked the ball to burn the clock.
Stow did force four of Hudson’s six turnovers on the night in the final eight minutes but they could get no closer than nine points. Martin converted 7-8 at the line in the final 3:16 as the visitors pulled away.
Hudson out-rebounded Stow 25-15, led by junior Jack Burdett’s eight rebounds. Bainbridge led Stow with eight as well.
Stow ended the night shooting 13-37 from the floor (35 percent).
Stow was to set to face another rival when it travels to Cuyahoga Falls Friday at 7:30 p.m.
The Bulldogs will close the regular season by traveling to Brecksville Feb. 22 at 7:30 p.m. and then hosting Cleveland St. Ignatius 3 p.m.