It seems hard to get excited about a matchup between the Suburban League’s last place team and the National Conferences hottest squad as of late.
Despite the possibilities of another blowout, Cuyahoga Falls, with just two wins on the year coming in and their rowdy student section, were ready when Hudson made the trip to the Falls on a snowy Friday night in Northeast Ohio.
The final score; Hudson 59, Cuyahoga Falls 41.
Falls never led but refused to fold, trailing by just eight (45-37) with 5:42 to play. The Explorers then went on a 12-0 run to finally put the pesky Tigers away.
"Give them some credit. I thought their kids played a gritty game. They are playing hard and the crowd was supportive," Hudson coach Jeff Brink said. "They ended up making a couple shots to keep the game within striking distance."
Falls dropped to 2-15, 1-11 in the National Conference.
For three-plus quarters, the Black Tigers did everything a little better than their first meeting with Hudson. Despite falling behind 13-4 early again, Falls hung around.
"I was pleased how we competed for four quarters. Their triangle [defense] stymied us a little bit. After the first quarter we handled it a lot better. For four quarters we competed," Falls coach Todd Taylor said. "You got to give Hudson credit. Jeff’s got them playing real well right now. They’re going to be a tough out in the tournament up there in Twinsburg."
Hudson threw a variety of defenses at the Falls including the triangle. For most of the night, Explorers senior guard Damani Ganaway face-guarded Falls junior Trinny Henderson denying the ball.
Henderson ended with four points.
Ganaway, with 10 points, was near the top of a pack of Explorers in the books. Dave Gentry led all scorers with 11 points, Tyler Miller joined Ganaway with 10 points. Jack Burdett had nine points and nine rebounds. Brad McCormick had nine points and Peyton Koscho had eight points.
The Explorers controlled the boards 27-13.
For the hosts, those numbers were an improvement from the previous meeting when Hudson held a 28-8 advantage through three periods.
Everything was better the second time around for the Tigers;
After making just 3-of-23 3-point shots in the first meeting, the hosts got enough deep balls from a variety of players this time. Those 3s allowed the Tigers to stay close against a much taller Explorer squad. Falls made 6-of-16 treys through three-plus quarters before falling on hard times (0-of-5) in the final six minutes.
Isaiah Campbell, Kyler Tepus, Ethan Tompkins, Joey Sondles and Zander Miller each hit one bomb through three periods.
When Black Tigers’ junior Brennan Guerin hit a 3 from the left wing with 6:18 left the hosts were back to within single digits, down 43-34 with 6:18 to play.
Moments later, they had a chance to really put a scare into the Explorers. A foul on a shot from Tepus turned into a big opportunity when a technical foul was called as well. Tepus, who led his team with nine points, stepped to the line by himself and converted three of the four freebies. Down just 45-37 with 5:42 left Falls had the ball as well.
Essentially at that point, after falling behind 13-4, the Tigers had outscored Hudson 33-32 over the game’s next 19 minutes.
A miss on a triple ended the scare as Ganaway rebounded for the Explorers. Hudson then ran off 12 straight points, six of those on free throws. Meanwhile, the Black Tigers turned the ball over twice and missed six shots in a row at crunch time.
Hudson converted 8-of-10 at the free-throw line in the fourth quarter. For the night, the visitors were 14-of-22 from the stripe. Falls went 5-9.
"I wish we could have kept it a little closer. We got the technical, missed one of those and then didn’t score off the possession, if I’m not mistaken. Then we got just a little bit sloppy, a little helter-skelter," Taylor said. "Against a team like Hudson you can’t make those mistakes. That’s why I give them all the credit in the world, but I give our kids credit … It could have been like the last time."