HUDSON — She’s calm, cool and collected whenever she takes the court.
Of course, such characteristics didn’t always exist in the DNA of a certain tireless three-sport standout.
This undisputed leader of the Hudson girls basketball team had anything but a serene demeanor when she was an underclassman.
She was quite high strung, as a matter of fact.
“I was, like, a nervous wreck all the time,” Sarah Hinkle said.
These days, the Explorers’ indispensable senior guard seems to be more comfortable with restoration rather than wreckage.
And her younger, fidgety teammates couldn’t be more grateful.
Thanks to a strong all-around performance by Hinkle, host Hudson ended a three-game losing streak with a hard-fought 39-34 victory over Tallmadge Wednesday at Ray “Buck” Hyser Gymnasium.
Hinkle scored a team-high 11 points and was a calming influence to her uneasy pals despite the sometimes extremely stressful ebbs and flows.
“I feel like I’m a really good person for everybody to talk to and look up to,” Hinkle said. “A lot of people are struggling with nerves before games and they’re really afraid to make mistakes.
“I think it’s my role to tell them, ‘You know what? Everybody makes mistakes.’ I was in their exact position when I was a freshman. Since I have been in their position before, I can understand where they’re coming from.”
A certain group of young ladies certainly hopes so.
That’s because they have been thrust into the limelight since the season began. If that wasn’t taxing enough, it only gets more demanding for these restless cubs.
Sophomore guard Ali Menendez, who, like Hinkle, has been a fixture in the rotation since she was a freshman, left Wednesday’s game after suffering eye and head injuries late in the second half. The Explorers also were missing senior guard Anastasia Lawler because of a head injury.
Thus, underclassmen such as sophomores Delaney DiGeronimo, Paige Albrecht and Constance Loring will spend far more time under the gun than they probably wish.
Fortunately, a wise-beyond-her-years’ playmaker may have the antidote to these navy blue-and-white pups’ overwhelming anxiety.
Of course, this particular remedy probably won’t include much sugarcoating.
“The other players are going to have to step up,” Hinkle said bluntly. “A lot of players who don’t start don’t have a lot of confidence. We’re going to have to get them up on their feet because obviously, I feel Ali is going to be out for the next game and I don’t know when Anastasia is coming back.”
There were some unknowns against the Blue Devils too. It sure started well for Hinkle and Co., though.
The Explorers, thanks to stellar ball movement and a confident and more importantly, accurate shooting stroke, took it to Tallmadge early. Hudson built a 17-4 lead after one period of play.
And then the butterflies may have gotten the best of Hudson’s youthful bunch. The old guard wasn’t immune to such trepidation either.
The Blue Devils got back in the game in a flash, thanks to a 12-2 run in the second quarter.
“It’s kind of been a common thing lately that we started well, went through a slump and then came back,” Hinkle said. “We just really tried to focus on skipping that little slump, staying high and keeping that lead the whole time. We didn’t do that again.”
No worries for Hinkle, though.
Early in the fourth quarter, the steely-focused senior received a pass from DiGeronimo on the right side. Without hesitation, Hinkle fired away from just outside the 3-point arc. Alas, the ball appeared to travel a bit too far past the rim.
Surprisingly, it was all good for Hinkle. That’s because the faraway location turned out to be a rather friendly ally: the glass.
The ball wound up bouncing off the backboard and into the net to give the Explorers a 35-27 lead.
Hudson didn’t look back the rest of the way.
“It’s a good win,” Hinkle said. “We needed that win. It’s good to be rewarded for the hard work we’ve been putting in, but I think we could have beaten them by so much more. We could have been so much better.”
There’s still time.
Playing freely and not frantically would be a critical first step in the right direction, according to Hinkle.
“People are like, ‘Don’t be nervous about it. It’s just a game,’” she said. “It’s not just that. You think about everything and you think about mistakes and you think about how you are going to contribute to the team. I think I’m a good person to look up to about that.”
Hinkle’s free advice also includes some of her future teammates, who may prefer a ground-level net rather than one that sits 10 feet above the floor.
In case you’re wondering, the always-on-the-go teenager is a gifted player on the girls lacrosse team, as well.
By the way, Hinkle plans to “stick” around for awhile when it comes to her favorite spring sport. Hinkle recently signed to continue her academic and lacrosse careers at the University of Tampa.
She likes the links too.
Hinkle recently concluded a successful career as a member of the girls golf team during the fall.
When it comes to this talented young lady, relaxing on a recliner sounds about as intriguing as a spinal fusion.
Most of the time, at least. After Wednesday’s game, it’s a safe bet Hinkle may not have heeded a certain piece of advice from late Hall-of-Fame shortstop Ernie Banks.
“Let’s play two!”
“I’m actually very tired,” Hinkle said. “I could play … No, I probably couldn’t. I just get so sore after every game.”
Reporter Frank Aceto can be reached at 330-541-9444, email@example.com or @FrankAceto_RPC.