WARREN — For much of the evening, the Hudson boys basketball team appeared to be in great shape.
The Explorers were in control against an opponent that simply couldn’t buy a basket.
And then Hudson’s opponent found its stroke during one memorable eight-minute stretch.
Sadly, that was enough to send the Explorers packing for the winter.
Fifth-seeded Hudson’s stellar season came to an abrupt end after losing to fourth-seeded Warren Harding 44-40. The Twinsburg Division I sectional title contest took place Saturday in Warren.
The Explorers, who had their 11-game winning streak snapped, finished 16-8. The Raiders (14-9) advanced to a district semifinal game next week.
For a while, Harding looked completely lost against Hudson. The Raiders trailed 20-11 at halftime and shot just 7-for-31 from the floor, including a dismal 1-of-16 from 3-point range.
However, that changed rather dramatically in the third quarter.
Harding made 10-of-14 shots in the period, including 6-of-10 from 3-point range. Thus, the momentum completely switched hands as the Raiders outscored the Explorers 26-8.
"They (the Raiders) didn’t shoot it well and we played pretty good defense," Hudson head coach Jeff Brink said. "They obviously got hot and once they got on a roll, it started snowballing.
"We didn’t answer on our end. Their defense was solid in the second half. They put a lot of pressure on the ball. You have to give them a lot of credit on the defensive end."
Amazingly enough, Harding scored just two points in the first quarter. The Raiders took their first lead (24-22) since the opening basket when Tye Pennington drained a long 3-pointer in the third quarter.
D’Muntize Owens’ 3 with just a second left in the period gave the Raiders a 37-28 advantage.
Hudson did not cut its margin to less than four the rest of the way. Turnovers certainly didn’t help. The Explorers lost the ball 17 times compared to just eight miscues by Harding.
For the most part, though, that didn’t seem to matter for much of the season. Remarkably enough, Hudson lost the ball more than its opponent in every one of its games this winter.
"That is something we have been dealing with," Brink said. "We were able to dodge the bullet in certain games, but (Saturday), it caught up with us.
"They hit enough shots to make us pay. They did a great job coming out of the gates (in the second half). We kind of righted the ship and got back in the game, but we were just too sloppy with the ball. The turnovers were the big difference in the game."
Pennington, who knocked down four 3-pointers, led the Raiders with 12 points.
Senior post Jack Burdett made 7-of-10 shots to finish with a game-high 14 points for Hudson. Dave Gentry added 12 points for the Explorers.
Burdett concludes his career as Hudson’s all-time leader in rebounds (698), assists (246), blocked shots (136) and games played (93). He is seventh on the school’s all-time list in total points (934).
The Explorers two other seniors were guard Brad McCormick and Peyton Koscho.
"From a 3-6 team to respond and rip off 13 and one over that stretch (coming into the finale), that is a tremendous accomplishment for our seniors to right the ship and get us to rip off 11 in a row," Brink said. "That was a lot about leadership in the locker room. Looking back, we’ll say it was a pretty darn good year."