Wadsworth wins defensive battle with Hudson girls basketball

Michael Leonard
Kent Weeklies
Hudson forward Gracie Merrick drives past Wadsworth's Steph Andrews during the Explorers' 50-31 home loss to the Grizzlies Dec. 2. Merrick led Hudson with eight points. (K.M. Klemencic/Kent Weeklies]
Wadsworth freshman Brooke Baughman takes a shot during the Grizzlies' 50-31 win at Hudson Dec. 2. Baughman led all scorers with 11 points. [K.M. Klemencic/Kent Weeklies]

HUDSON —  Wadsworth's Andrew Booth and Hudson's Dennis Lawler have carved the identity of their respective girls basketball programs based on aggressive defense.

Both teams were showing their prowess on the defensive end when they met Wednesday night  at the Ray "Buck" Hyser Gymnasium at Hudson. 

Trailing 20-9 at halftime, Hudson's solution to get back in the game? Even more aggressive defense.

The move made things interesting for awhile, but Hudson's offensive deficiencies could not be overcome.

Hudson (1-2, 0-1) had more turnovers than points for most of the game and Wadsworth (3-0, 1-0) was able to win a scrappy battle 50-31 in the Suburban League National Conference opener for both teams.

Booth said he was happy with his team's effort, noting it was difficult to expect perfect execution in early December.

"I'm really pleased with our defensive play all night long," Booth said. "To hold a team like Hudson, who shoots the ball so well, to 31 points is a good night."

Hudson was coming off its first win of the season, a 66-44 rout Saturday  at Kent Roosevelt. Any offensive continuity evaporated against the Grizzlies. Hudson committed 22 turnovers and missed numerous layups.

"We just need to get ahold of an attacking mindset," Lawler said. "I think we did some good things defensively, but in our two losses, we haven't shot the ball well. We held them to 20 points in the first half. Defense was not the problem."

Indeed, Hudson's defense wasn't the issue, although Wadsworth guard Maggie Long opened the game with three layups, leading Wadsworth to an 11-3 lead after one quarter.

With offense sputtering, Hudson got help from a bit of an unlikely source.

Sophomore forward Gracie Merrick came off the bench to lead Hudson with eight points and several steals.

"She did a great job tonight," Lawler said. "As I said at the beginning of the year, she's the best athlete we have. She helped off the bench, and we're going to try to get her more play."

Booth knew Hudson would try something to change the game's narrative after the half.

"That's the thing with Dennis," Booth said. "You never know when its coming, but you know he's going to do something to make the game more chaotic."

Booth was right. Hudson unleashed a 2-1-2 half-court trap on the Grizzlies, which led to turnovers on Wadsworth's first three second-half possessions.

"We were just trying to get some easier baskets," Lawler said. "I had no problems with our effort at all tonight."

Hudson forced 14 Wadsworth turnovers in the second half, but never was able to get the deficit lower than nine points.

"When we attacked downhill against the trap, we were able to get some good looks," Booth said. "When we stood still, we turned the ball over."

A big reason for the Grizzlies maintaining their lead was the play of freshman Brooke Baughman. If that name sounds familiar, she is the sister of Joey Baughman, who won Ohio's Mr. Football award at Wadsworth.

"I used to joke with Joey that she was the best athlete in the family," Booth said. "She's been out for a while due to a quarantine. She was really the only one who seemed willing to attack when Hudson went to the trap."

Coming off the bench, Baughhman showed every facet of her game. She made two 3-pointers, made numerous rebounds in traffic and finished with a game-high 11 points and seven rebounds.

Hudson trailed 34-23 after three quarters, as junior guard Ali Menendez found her shot in the third quarter, but the Explorers couldn't come any closer in the final eight minutes.

Hudson didn't help its cause by going 6-of-15 from the free-throw line. Wadsworth wasn't much better, making 10-of-19 from the line and missing numerous layups themselves.

"They've got a couple of good rim protectors in [Kate] Orazen and [Constance] Lorring," Booth said. "I think we were looking out of the corner of our eyes for them."

Hudson's front-court starters, Orazen and Lorring, each had six points. Orazen added a game-high eight rebounds and Lorring had seven.