By Ho Hoffman
GRANGER TWP. — The Hudson boys basketball team put the clamps on Highland’s offense in the second half Tuesday to escape with a 37-33 non-league win.
Trailing 23-15 at halftime, the Explorers (11-4) outscored the Hornets (9-7) 22-10 the rest of the way.
“This victory was due to our defense,” Hudson coach Jeff Brink said. “A lot of people tend to think we get our wins with offense and they ignore our defensive ability. Tonight, it was our defense which rose to the occasion.”
Brink’s bench helped, too.
Highland (9-7) played solid defense of its own, holding the Hudson starters to 17 points — the same starters who stunned state-ranked Shaker Heights last week. However, the Hornets’ problem was not being able to control a pair of backups.
Kevin Zullo (9 points) and Mitch Guadagni (11) points were the difference in the game.
Zullo hit a 3-pointer from what felt like the parking lot with 6:51 to go to give Hudson its first lead (31-28), while Guadagni, a standout quarterback, scored the Explorers’ final six points.
“We have a faced a lot of teams this year who think if they shut down our starters, they can shut our scoring down,” Brink said. “Tonight was a perfect example of what can happen when you forget about our bench.”
For most of the game, Highland employed a box-and-one defense on Zack Brandy, who entered averaging 18.9 points. The plan worked, as Brandy was held to five points just four days after dropping 30 on Shaker Heights.
“Defensively, we played great,” Highland coach Mike Murphy said. “We held Hudson’s shooting percentage down (34 percent, 13-of-38) and limited them to 37 points. That should be good enough to win most games.”
Unfortunately for Highland, its season-long problem — inconsistent shooting — was its downfall.
Led by Austin Casenhiser’s three 3-pointers, the Hornets shot 8-of-16 in the first half. In the second, they were 4-of-15.
“We had the same shot opportunities and looks that we had in the first half, but we couldn’t hit a thing in the second half,” Murphy said. “Seems like that has been our problem all year. We hit a spell where we get good looks, but the ball won’t go through the hoop.”
Of the Hornets’ 31 shots, 20 were from downtown, where they only hit six. As a result, Highland only attempted four free throws.
“We had the shots we wanted,” Murphy said. “It wasn’t a matter of where we shot them from. It was a matter of not going in the hole, especially in the second half, and that was the difference in the game.”
The Hudson junior varsity remained undefeated with a 58-42 victory. Ian Lever topped the Explorers with 16 points, while Zach Levine’s 11 paced the Hornets.
Contact Ho Hoffman at email@example.com.