Hudson boys struggle in makeshift games with Mentor and Salem

Rob Barrone
Correspondent
Hudson forward David Gentry put up a shot over Cortland Lakeview's Brendon Kilpatrick Wednesday

In the revolving world of the Hudson boys basketball team’s schedule the Explorers picked up games with Mentor and Salem Jan. 29 and 30.

With COVID-19 affecting the scheduled Cuyahoga Falls contest, the Explorers got on the horn and found a replacement in undefeated Mentor. The following night the locals found another first time adversary in Salem.

Hudson dropped the pair, starting with a 54-40 loss to an 8-0 Cardinal’s squad on the court at Ray “Buck” Hyser Gymnasium. The trek to Salem also resulted in a 42-32 loss

Hudson coach Jeff Brink’s basketball career started with the Quakers, who improved to 10-4. Hudson dipped to 3-8 on the year.

“I have a lot of good memories here. I grew up, as a little kid, watching my heroes play on this court in the tournament. It was great basketball back in the 70s,” Brink explained. “As a kid a dreamed of playing here and then in the 80s I got a chance to play Youngstown Rayen in a district game here; it was the last game of my career.”

Brink’s ties to Salem continued in the early 2000s as he came to Salem from Springfield Local to coach before leaving for Hudson for the 2006-07 season.

Unfortunately for Brink and his Explorers his return after 15 years was not the success they had hoped for.

After giving one of its best efforts of the year against Mentor the previous night, Hudson seemed to run out of gas at Salem.

The Explorers are having trouble getting the ball in the basket. After shooting 18-34 against the Cardinals, which included 1-4 shooting on threes, Hudson went cold at Salem.

Hudson shot just 29 percent from the floor for the night and were only 4-19 after intermission.

“Our defense is fine. The bottom line is we can’t score,” Brink said/ “Our shooting is so bad right now; that’s frustrating for the kids.”

Salem played a 1-3-1 zone with size at the top and double teams when the ball went to the corners. The hosts forced 18 turnovers while the Explorers turned the Quakers over 14 times.

Hudson came out of the gates strong with Dave Gentry (three points) and Tyler Miller combing to give Hudson an early 5-0 lead. Salem closed to 11-9 after one period.

In the second quarter the hosts got their first lead on a baseline jumper from 6-4 forward Drew Weir. The junior tallied ten points in the frame and hit three three-pointers on his way to a 16-point night. The Explorers stayed with their hosts in the second quarter as the lead changed hands five times to go along with two ties.

In that stanza reserves Tino Yli-Junilla and Michael Steel hit buckets for Hudson leads. Yli-Junnila’s was a three, the fourth in the past four games for the freshman.

Weir’s second trey of the game gave the Quakers the lead (20-17) late in the first half. In the second half Salem’s Jon Null pumped in ten of his 16 points as the hosts widened the lead to 42-28 with about five minutes to go. Hudson kept Salem off the board from there but could get only a pair of spinning drives by Miller down the stretch.

Miller led the Explorers with 11-points and 6 rebounds. Gentry was next with five points and six boards. In all nine, Explorers got into the scorebook but JD Taylor (four) was the only other player to get four points or more.

Hudson made things interesting against Mentor.

Trailing 49-29 after three Hudson’ varsity rallied to run off 11 points in a row before the Cardinals finished it off with the final five points.

“This was a great opportunity. You want to play powerhouses. You challenge your kids to see what you’re made of,” Brink noted. “For our kids; you had one of the best teams in the state and you had a single digit game (49-40) in the fourth quarter. That’s right where you want to be.”

The Explorers were holding their own in the opening minutes and led 4-3 after Carter Buzzelli found Michael Klein for a press-breaking lay-in. A little latter Miller got an old-fashioned three-point play inside to bring Hudson to within one at 8-7 but three Mentor steals in the final two minutes of the first period had the visitors up 17-9 at the stop.

Sophomore Jagger Pallay’s first varsity points, a lay-in late in the first half was one of a few Hudson highlights in the second stanza. Mentor’s lead was 33-17 at the half.

Hudson actually outscored the Cardinals the rest of the way.

Despite seven turnovers against Mentors tenacious press the hosts held their own in the third. Hitting 6-10 shots in the frame was big. Gentry had six of Hudson’s 132 points in the quarter, but Mentor extended its lead to 49-29 after three.

Gentry scored the first six points of the fourth quarter and the Explorers turned the visitors over twice early in the frame. Gentry found Pallay for a three from the right corner and Miller’s drive for two with 3:24 made the score 49-40. Mentor milked the clock, forced two turnovers and held on for the 54-40 victory.

“We’re giving everybody a shot. If you play well you earn more minutes,” Brink summed up. “We’re just looking for guys to step up. Dave Gentry was phenomenal tonight. He put the team on his back and worked us back into the game.”

Gentry led Hudson with 16 points and eight rebounds. Miller was next with seven points and Pallay had five