HUDSON — There’s an age-old idiom that could have described a certain Suburban League National Conference contest Tuesday.
"Know which side your bread is buttered on."
When it comes to the North Royalton and Hudson boys basketball teams, they know their own buttering preferences quite well.
The Bears like it buttered from the outside, while the Explorers prefer the inside.
In the end, Hudson’s effort could apply to a certain catchphrase by late ESPN sportscaster Stuart Scott.
"Just call the [Explorers] butter, ’cause they’re on a roll."
Host Hudson won its fifth consecutive game after defeating first-place North Royalton 66-58 at Ray "Buck" Hyser Gymnasium.
With the win, the Explorers improved to 10-7 overall and 7-4 in the conference. The Bears have lost two consecutive games and more importantly, their firm grip on top of the conference standings. North Royalton dropped to 13-5 overall and 9-2 in the conference.
Hudson and Brecksville Broadview Heights (7-4), which lost to Twinsburg 54-47 Tuesday, are in third place in the conference standings. The Tigers improved to 8-3 in the conference.
On Tuesday, the Bears finished with 14 3-pointers on a whopping 42 attempts. The Explorers, on the other hand, converted 65 percent (22-of-34) of their shots from closer range.
"We’re playing good basketball right now," said Hudson head coach Jeff Brink, whose team has won seven of its last eight. "Over the past couple weeks, we have pulled out three wins against the best three teams in the league. I like the way we are playing."
So what has led to the dramatic turnaround? Part of it can be the realization of "where its bread is buttered."
The Explorers have attacked inside on a more regular basis but still have gotten key outside shooting. This time, it was from Damani Ganaway, who buried four 3-point shots, while spending the night face-guarding North Royalton standout point guard Omar Abuhamdeh.
The Bears’ junior had a game-high 19 points in the early season loss but was held to two points in the first half this time around. As a result, Hudson had a 28-24 lead at halftime.
Abuhamdeh finished with 15 points, but most of them came in the second half after Hudson took control of the game.
"I’ve been face-guarding the top guards," Ganaway said. "I face-guarded Wadsworth [Solomon Callaghan], Ellet [Trevin Carter] and [Tuesday].
"Omar is probably the hardest. He is a really good player. I feel like I did a pretty good job earlier in the game getting him out of his game a little bit."
While Ganaway limited Abuhamdeh’s effectiveness, he had a big night of his own with 16 points.
"It was a rough start of the season," Ganaway said. "We had to get together as a team, play more as a team and stop being selfish. Once we did that, we started playing better.
"Anybody can score on any given night. Tyler [Miller] had a buzzer-beater last [in a 61-59 overtime win over Akron East last Saturday] and anybody can have double digits on any given night. We all did something collectively as a team [Tuesday]."
While Ganaway gave the Explorers balance, with a little butter on both sides, it was the inside play that left North Royalton limping out of Hyser Gym.
Jack Burdett pumped in a game-high 21 points on 9-of-11 shooting from the floor for Hudson. The 6-foot-6 senior also grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds (all on the defensive end) and handed out a game-high six assists. Teammate David Gentry added 14 points.
"That was probably one of the most dominant performances I’ve seen from Jack in his career in terms of just attacking," Brink said. "He was a beast. He has been really good over the past month but [Tuesday] was beyond good. He just attacked the rim at will."
Burdett also had a pair of dunks as the Explorers built a double-digit lead that lasted much of the second half.
"I knew we needed to get a couple dunks to get that energy going," Burdett said. "We haven’t had that many this season. We knew they would shoot a lot and they were hitting a lot, but we had to attack the glass and get every board."
Hudson had a 34-25 edge on the glass.
"It all starts in practice," Burdett. "We have started taking it a lot more seriously. Every one of us is prepared every day and giving 100 percent. The JV [junior varsity] team is always working us hard to get us ready for each game."