HUDSON — When the ball was released, Jessica Rader cringed.
Pardon the Twinsburg head girls basketball coach if something like this came to mind.
“What was she thinking?”
In the end, though, Rader’s unflappable pupil delivered a positive “net” rating.
As a result, the Tigers continued to torment their favorite rival to the south.
Thanks to the dazzling play of junior guard Jada Austin, Twinsburg continued its mastery over host Hudson after earning a come-from-behind 48-45 victory Wednesday at Ray “Buck” Hyser Gymnasium.
Austin, who finished with a game-high 21 points, decided to let it fly during a crucial moment late in the fourth quarter.
With her team trailing 43-42, Austin dribbled the ball past halfcourt on the right side and then launched a high-arching 3-point attempt from several feet beyond the arc.
The result? Just like she planned: nothing but net.
“I felt like I had to step up, be a leader,” Austin said. “I put matters into my own hands and took a good shot. I felt like it was a good shot. I felt like I was open. I have pride in that shot.”
At first glance, Rader wasn’t so sure. Once the shot fell through the hoop, though, the second-year Tigers’ coach staunchly approved her playmaker’s decision.
“It’s a bad shot if she misses, but it’s a great shot because it went in,” Rader said with a hint of a smirk.
Austin’s cold-blooded clutch triple gave Twinsburg the lead for good. However, the dribbling dynamo’s highlight reel included a mesmerizing grand finale.
A few possessions later, Austin tracked down a loose ball, raced down the court until she reached the rim before deftly dishing it to freshman guard/forward Genesis Carthen for an easy layup. That gave the Tigers, who were missing high-scoring senior guard/forward Alana Ellis because of a knee injury, a 48-43 lead with less than a minute left.
“I feel like I have to step up,” Austin said. “We’re a good team. Alana is a great player. It’s amazing. I definitely feel we can pick up the momentum.”
That “momentum” was severely lacking for Twinsburg until Austin’s heroics down the stretch.
The Explorers led much of the way and were up by as many as nine (39-30) late in the third quarter.
“We had to match their intensity,” Austin said. “They came out playing hard, aggressive. We weren’t matching it at first. We had to regroup in a timeout.”
Austin actually outscored Hudson by herself in the fourth quarter. She finished with seven points in the final eight minutes. The Tigers closed the game with an 18-6 run.
“She is our vocal leader as well as our leader by example,” Rader said of Austin. “She plays really emotional. Sometimes that’s a really good thing; sometimes you have to rein it in a little bit. For the most part, I thought she did a good job of handling those emotions to help us.”
Those “emotions” always seem to run high for Austin and Co. when the Explorers take the court. While there have been many close encounters between the two longtime combatants, this rivalry has been a one-sided affair for more than a decade.
Not that Austin minds, though. For the ice-in-her veins’ junior and her proud teammates, a victory over Hudson has a tendency to be more special than others.
To some degree, you could call it Twinsburg’s version of the Super Bowl.
“It’s always a big game,” Austin said. “They’re competitive; they’re a good team. It’s just a great game. They play hard. You have to play hard back.
“That was a really good win. It felt good to win that game.”
Reporter Frank Aceto can be reached at 330-541-9444, email@example.com or @FrankAceto_RPC.