CUYAHOGA FALLS — It may seem hard to get excited about a matchup between the Suburban League National Conference’s last-place team and the conference’s hottest team.
After all, the Hudson boys basketball team entered Friday’s game with five straight wins.
Cuyahoga Falls, on the other hand, had been struggling mightily.
In the end, the Explorers got the outcome they desired. However, the pesky Black Tigers sure made them work for it.
Hudson improved to 10-7 overall and 8-4 in the National Conference after earning a 59-41 victory over host Falls Friday at Coach Tom Jones Court.
The Black Tigers dropped to 2-15 overall and 1-11 in the conference.
Although it never had the lead, Falls was in the game for much of the evening. In the end, though, the Explorers put the Black Tigers away with a 12-0 run to finish the game.
"Give them [the Black Tigers] some credit," Hudson head coach Jeff Brink said. "I thought their kids played a gritty game. They are playing hard and the crowd was supportive. They ended up making a couple shots to keep the game within striking distance."
With the win, Hudson earned its eighth victory in its last 10 games. It all started with a 52-20 rout of Falls at Ray "Buck" Hyser Gymnasium.
Despite their recent surge, the Explorers will need a miracle to get a piece of the National Conference title.
North Royalton, which Hudson defeated earlier in the month, clinched at least a share of the conference championship. The Bears are 10-2 in the conference after routing Wadsworth 57-41 Friday. Twinsburg and Brecksville-Broadview Heights also have four conference losses with two conference games to play.
Hudson threw a variety of stuff at the Black Tigers, including a version of a triangle defense. For most of the night, Explorers’ senior guard Damani Ganaway face-guarded Falls junior point guard Trinny Henderson denying the ball. Henderson ended with four points.
"Damani was awesome," Brink said. "He controlled the flow of the game and did another great job defensively. He hit a couple big threes for us and his decision-making in terms of getting the ball to the right guy, when to pull it out, when to push tempo was excellent. All facets of his game were solid."
Ganaway scored 10 points. Dave Gentry led all scorers with 11 points, Tyler Miller joined Ganaway with ten points to lead Hudson. Jack Burdett had nine points and nine rebounds. Brad McCormick had nine points and Peyton Koscho had eight points for the Explorers.
Hudson, thanks to the 6-foot-6 Burdett, 6-4 Gentry and 6-3 Miller, had a 27-13 advantage on the glass.
The Black Tigers, who missed 20 of their 23 3-point attempts in their previous meeting with Hudson, finished 6-of-16 Friday.
The Explorers converted 8-of-10 shots at the free throw line in the fourth quarter. Ganaway made all four of his attempts and Miller connected on 3-of-4 attempts. Falls finished 5-of-9 from the charity stripe. Kyler Tepus led the Black Tigers with nine points.
"Our guys stuck to the game plan," Brink said. "We were attacking the paint. It was a physical game. Tyler had a tremendous second half. He made a couple defensive plays, got out in transition and did a great job at the free throw line."
Hudson received the fifth seed at the Twinsburg Division I sectional-district tournament.
The Explorers are scheduled to host Cleveland John Adams in a sectional semifinal game Feb. 26 at Ray "Buck" Hyser Gymnasium. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m.
Shaker Heights earned the top seed and Garfield Heights, Solon and Warren G. Harding got the second, third and fourth seeds, respectively.