Hudson boys basketball opens season with big win at Fitch

Rob Barrone
Correspondent
Hudson's Michael Klein puts up a shot over Austinton-Fitch's Gianni Maley during the Explorers' 48-33 win at Fitch Dec. 4.
Hudson's Aiden Lal drives between Austintown-Fitch's Todd Simmons (23) and Michael Palmer during the Explorers' 48-33 win at Fitch.

It took a while for the Hudson boys basketball season to get off the ground.

The orginal season opener Nov. 27 was postponed due to COVID-19 concerns. The next two games on the schedule, the following week with Wadsworth and Brecksville, were also erased.

Finally, the season was to begin Dec. 4 at Austintown-Fitch with another game the following night with Ellet coming to Ray “Buck” Hyser Gymnasium.

While the Fitch game went on as planned,  the other was also wiped out.

That one night of action turned into a three=game sweep for the Explorers as the freshmen kicked off the proceedings with a 45-31 win over the Falcons; behind 16 points from Joseph Schneider.

The junior varsity rallied late to beat the hosts 57-51 in overtime. Sophomore Michael Steel’s bucket in the paint with four seconds left sent the game into the extra three minutes. Steel had 15 points and classmate Jagger Pallay pumped in 18 points.

In the night-cap the varsity ousted Fitch 48-33 to get the season off to a winning start.

Now the question is: when will Hudosn play next? The preseason schedule has a trip to Nordonia on their plate, but postponements are coming in fast and furious.

“It wasn’t a work of art but it was great to just be in the gym. We are fortunate to be able to play this game right now,” head coach Jeff Brink said. “To just be on the floor and play was a tremendous relief. It was good for the kids …that was fun.”

Hudson struggled in a number of ways, shooting just 25.6 percent from the floor through three quarters; included in that was a 1-13 shooting effort from three-point territory.

All the while their top returner, senior Dave Gentry, spent much of the game on the pines with foul trouble.

“One of the big keys to the game was with Dave picking up the two quick fouls. Isaiah Powell, one of our post guys is out right now, so we basically had to lean on Tyler (Miller) quite a bit. He answered the bell in terms of scoring and giving us a lot of minutes. It’s nice to have the luxury of having a guy like that step up.”

Miller put up double-double with a 13 points and 13 rebounds. The senior also handed out three assists and blocked five shots.

Gentry ended with eight points and eight boards, despite very limited minutes.

When Gentry picked up his second foul at the 2:39 mark of the first quarter the Explorers were on top by a 7-4 count. After the hosts closed to down it 9-9 early in the second period, Hudson began to pull away.

The team in their visiting blue held Austintown scoreless the last 7:15 of the half while scoring 11 straight with Gentry watching from the sidelines.

Junior Aiden Lal’s three-point play in the paint on a three-shot possession started the spurt. Lal, who had nine points for the night, ended the run with a lay-up for a 20-8 halftime lead.

In between Lal’s scores, Miller dominated. He scored six consecuative points with a variety of drives to the hoop and free throws. He also snaggedbed three straight rebounds in the same run.

“It was weird going out at first. We haven’t played in …forever,” Miller said. “We had a lot of jitters and so did the other team. It was a little bit sloppy but we’ll be better next game for sure.”

The two teams combined for 31 turnovers (14 for the Explorers).

Hudson made shots down the stretch to avoid what would have been just the third loss to the Falcons all-time.

The Explorers are now 11-2 against Fitch a school best .846 winning percentage against a single school.

After Gentry was relegated to the bench for a third time—  picking up his fourth foul with 6:36 to play — the hosts closed the gap.

What had been a double-digit lead for most of the third quarter was down to just 31-26 with 5:31 left.

Recovering from their early shooting woes, the Explorers finished off the game making their last seven shots.

Another three-shot possession ended with Lal scoring inside again. The next six Hudson shots all fell.

The Explorers out-rebounded the hosts 36-23.

Michael Klein (six points) drove in for two moments later. Miller punctuated his night beating the Falcons press and then posterizing their post man with a dunk over him.

With the lead back down to a seven-point bulge, JD Taylor ended cold streak from downtown hitting a triple with 2:16 left (41-31).

Hudson’s next shot was another three-ball, this time from Carter Buzzelli; his second trey of the game. That deep ball with 1:19 remaining left little doubt pushing the score to 44-31.

Gentry added two late buckets including his own slam in the final minute.

“It wasn’t real clean tonight; there were a lot of things that we have been working on that we didn’t do a very good job with. But it’s always nice to have a win (and then) to be able to go back to the lab and work on those things you need to after a victory rather than taking a loss,” Brink said.

“It was the first game. We made enough plays when we needed too. I was proud of the guys; Aiden (Lal) made a couple big takes for us and the three’s at the end put the nail in the coffin.”