Hudson boys basketball hangs on to upset North Royalton

Rob Barrone
Hudson's Michael Klein puts up layup during a game earlier this season.

Through 17 games the Hudson boys basketball team have struggled to get an “easy” win.

On Feb. 13  at Buck Hyser Gymnasium), what should have been a signature win turned into just the latest in that trend.

The Explorers were on the brink of an upset win over Suburban League National Conference co-champion North Royalton. With a 14-point lead in the waning minutes, the victory came into doubt.

As the buzzer sounded, North Royalton’s returning league MVP, Omar Abuhamdeh’s long three-pointer was well short and Hudson survived 53-50.

The victory lifted the local’s record to 7-10 while the Bears fell to 11-6. The game did not count toward the league title with a shortened seven-game campaign this year.

North Royalton’s 14-1 spurt in a 57-second span made things interesting, but Tyler Miller’s lay-up off a feed from Dave Gentry with 10 seconds to go made it 53-50 and forced Abuhamdeh to shoot from downtown as the game ended.

Hudson controlled the action outscoring the Bears 41-19 over a span of around 21 minutes turning a 17-9 deficit into a 50-36 lead late in the game.

“It’s a shame that the ending taints what was a phenomenal evening. We had a rotten first quarter …then we responded with a tremendous second quarter. The second, third and through most of the fourth that was probably the best basketball we’ve played all year,” coach Jeff Brink said. “Unfortunately the last two minutes turned into a debacle which made the game a white knuckler.”

The final minutes aside it’s still a win and the Explorers needed a win over a quality opponent.

As usual Gentry, 18 points and Miller, 13 points led the way but to beat the two-time league champs the duo needed help from the supporting cast and they got it. JD Taylor and Ryan Evans each had career high scoring nights and had other key plays as well.

“The effort tonight was great. We were all hustling and rebounding. It was a good team effort for sure,” Taylor said after his eight-point, three-rebound, three-assist, two-steal night. “That felt great. Omar (Abuhamdeh) is a really good player, we tried our best but he still got some clutch shots that made it tough.”

Taylor chipped in with 3-3 from the floor, including a three-pointer, while Evans was 3-5 shooting for six points along with three rebounds and two steals.

“It was definitely a big win but we knew before that we could beat anyone in the league. When we did the game plan we knew we could win,” Evans explained.

It didn’t start off like a sure thing when Hudson committed the first turnover just ten seconds into the game. Abuhamdeh had three steals in the first period and scored the Bears' first six points and eight in the first frame.

The Bears were threatening a blowout taking command 14-6 lead late in the quarter already racking up five team steals and forcing ten total miscues. The last three points were turned in by Miller with a three-point play in the paint off an assist from Evans.

A Bear’s triple made the score 17-9 early in the second quarter before the Explorers took over.

An 18-7 run had Gentry hitting back-to-back baskets including a jam off a feed from Taylor. Gentry, who was 7-12 shooting on the night, had plenty of help in the spurt; Carter Buzzelli, Taylor and Jagger Pallay each hit threes in the stanza. Pallay’s with 25 seconds left in the first half gave the Explorers the lead (27-24) for good.

In the quarter Hudson was 7-8 from the floor and along with a good shooting first period the hosts missed just three of 14 shots in the first half.

The momentum carried over into the third quarter which Hudson won by a 12-5 count. The Blue and White led 39-29 after three. Gentry added a second dunk late in the frame again off a pass from Taylor.

After the Bears closed the gap to seven at 41-34 with a three from Abuhamdeh the hosts went on a 7-0 run and were thinking about that easy button. When gentry drove to the hoop for two with 1:54 left the score was 50-36.

North Royalton upped its pressure in the final minutes forcing four miscues in a 64-second span. Killian O’Callahan hit back to back treys at the 1:15 and 55 second marks and added a lay-up with 47 ticks left to close the gap to 50-44.

After a missed one and one from the Explorers Abuhamdeh drilled a three with 30 seconds to go.

The Bears had 11 points in just 45 second to make it a one possession game.

A Gentry free throw made the score 51-47 with 29 seconds on the clock but Abuhamdeh drove for an old fashioned three point play to make it 51-50 with 17.0 seconds to go.

Hudson finally beat the press with Miller scoring with ten ticks to go. The defense forced Abuhamdeh to take a long three at the buzzer and it came up short with all air.

Brink praised his role players.

“We got great contributions from guys; Ryan (Evans) responded with a great effort. Carter (Buzzelli) hit a big bucket and handled the ball and Jagger did a nice job off the bench too. JD (Taylor) is one of those guys that I can’t say enough superlatives about. He does a lot of little things that don’t show up in the stat sheet. He is the best guy I have in our program at our match-up zone. This was probably JD’s best game of the year”

Miller grabbed a game high seven rebounds to go with his 5-9 shooting and 3-3 at the line. Gentry’s stat line includes a team high four assists …non bigger than his pass to Miller in the final seconds. Gentry has averaged 18ppg over the Explorers latest 4-2 run.