TWINSBURG — They’ve dealt with the loss of their top player for much of the season.
Thus, they have taken their lumps with two underclassmen in their starting lineup on a regular basis.
Fortunately for the Tigers, though, an age-old fact still exists for the ladies who call Ravenna Road their second home.
Twinsburg is still Hudson’s master.
The host Tigers accomplished another season sweep of the Explorers after earning a 52-43 victory Wednesday.
With the win, Twinsburg, which has not lost to Hudson in more than a decade, improved to 7-14 overall. The Tigers finished 6-8 in the Suburban League National Conference.
The Explorers dropped to 8-13 overall. Hudson finished 4-10 in the conference.
"People keep talking about that," said second-year Twinsburg head coach Jessica Rader, who has led the Tigers to a 4-0 record against Hudson in the last two seasons. "We definitely seem to be more prepared mentally before we play Hudson. I don’t know what it is. I guess it’s a little rivalry, but we prepare in a different way for Hudson than everyone else, it seems."
The Tigers, who have played a majority of their season without injured, high-scoring senior guard Alana Ellis, took the lead (39-38) for good when sophomore guard/forward Logan Pride converted two free throws with a little more than a minute left in the third quarter.
That was the beginning of a 12-1 Twinsburg run that put the game away.
"We’ve been outmatched, but we upset Mentor a couple of weeks ago," Rader said. "We’ve played against really good competition all year long. Our non-conference schedule is really tough. We’ve done a good job of competing with a lot of teams."
Gregory, who was particularly disruptive on defense, scored a game-high 22 points. She also had six rebounds and five steals.
Senior point guard Jada Austin added 15 points and senior guard Faith Gregory contributed nine points for the Tigers, who dominated the glass for much of the second half.
Twinsburg had a 28-25 edge in rebounding, including a 20-13 advantage in the final 16 minutes.
The Tigers also had a knack for getting the ball even when it wasn’t originally in their possession.
On a number of rebounds Hudson grabbed, Twinsburg forced numerous jump balls by tying up a navy blue and white jersey. The Tigers had a knack for simply taking the ball out of the Explorers’ hands too. They forced 16 turnovers and had a knack for stealing balls out of Hudson’s players’ hands after errant shot attempts found iron.
"Without Alana, we’ve had to find other ways to win," Rader said. "One of those things is being a little more aggressive defensively and by rebounding. Some of our role players have really stepped up and have done a good job of providing that spark when we need it defensively.
"[Junior forward] Nighyah Carthen does a great job. [Senior forward] Alex Walker is always very physical on the boards."
Sophomore guard Ali Menendez led Hudson with 18 points and senior point guard Sarah Hinkle added eight points for the Explorers.
While her team has been on the losing end a bit more than she hoped, Rader hasn’t felt too grumpy about her young squad.
Despite the loss of its franchise player, the Twinsburg has not only survived, but thrived, particularly in games when the Tigers were the decided underdogs.
Of course, the underdog label won’t be attached to Twinsburg as long as its friends from Hudson Aurora Road come to town.
"If someone would have told me that we didn’t have Alana and we were able to pull out seven wins ... I don’t know," Rader said. "I think our younger girls have really stepped up.
"Jada Austin has taken on that leadership role. [Freshman guard/forward] Genesis Carthen plays significant minutes for us. I’m really happy for the younger girls, who have gotten that experience and they have really improved as the year has gone on."
Reporter Frank Aceto can be reached at 330-541-9444, email@example.com or @FrankAceto_Gannett.