Sunday, January 23, 2011

Battle of good friends ends with Hudson beating Stow

Hudson -- Lady Explorers head basketball coach Dennis Lawler won't lie.

There are some opponents he is downright giddy to see.

Stow-Munroe Falls, however, is not one of them.

"This is always a hard game for me," Lawler said. "I've known [Lady Bulldogs head coach] Bob Podges for 16 years and I've known [Stow assistant coach] Jeff Camp for 39 years.

"I talk to Bob once, twice and sometimes three times a week and I consider Jeff a brother and even a father to me."

Nevertheless, Lawler was pleased with the final result against his two close friends Jan. 15 at Ray "Buck" Hyser Gymnasium.

Of course, the game certainly made his heart skip a large number of beats.

Hudson earned its fifth straight victory after posting a 67-57 win over the Lady Bulldogs in a Northeast Ohio Conference showdown.

For the most part, the Lady Explorers had the edge against their former division rivals.

Hudson (9-2) had a double-digit lead for much of the second half.

But the Lady Bulldogs know the game got away from them late in the second quarter.

In fact, Stow trailed by just four (28-24) with a little less than two minutes left.

Unfortunately for the Lady Bulldogs, Hudson scored the last five points in the half.

Four of those points came on uncontested layups as Stow turned the ball over on consecutive possessions.

"I thought we played pretty even with them for three quarters and six minutes," Podges said. "We had that one two-minute stretch in the second quarter. We have a chance to tie the game and the next thing you know, we're down nine."

It would be easy to say the Lady Bulldogs (7-2) didn't give themselves a chance. They missed 12-of-19 free throws.

Of course, Hudson's players also were far from automatic from the foul line.

The Lady Explorers, who have struggled from the charity stripe throughout the season, converted just 17-of-32.

"They [the Lady Explorers] shot around their average," Podges said. "We normally shoot a lot better than that."

In the end, Hudson made a few more shots.

The Lady Explorers also got a quite few more rebounds, thanks to their height advantage in the post.

The height advantage became even more significant when Stow's veteran post player went down with an injury.

Senior forward Jackie Close was forced to leave the game after an awkward fall with a little more than three minutes remaining in the first quarter. Close could be found on crutches later in the game.

"Jackie rolled her ankle," Podges said. "She just rolled her other ankle the other day."

At times, Stow had absolutely no trouble with Hudson's vaunted full-court press. And sometimes, the Lady Bulldogs looked completely lost against it.

Hudson used its defense to build its lead to 15 (48-33) late in the third period. The Lady Explorers forced eight turnovers in the quarter.

But nothing came easy for Hudson on the offensive end. Stow's defense certainly had something to do with it.

"They [the Lady Bulldogs] made a nice run," Lawler said. "They took us out of our offense."

Stow cut the Lady Explorers' advantage to eight (49-41) early in the fourth quarter. Hudson promptly scored the next six points to gain some breathing room.

The Lady Explorers didn't look back the rest of the way.

Hudson senior forward Jessica Monsman, the University of Pennsylvania recruit, did not play her best game of the season.

Even though she was off by her usually elite standards, her presence, as always, elevated her team's play.

Her presence became a huge question mark late in the first quarter. Monsman, who finished with a team-high 18 points, picked up her second foul.

To the dismay of the Lady Bulldogs, she stayed on the floor.

"I trust Jess to make good decisions," Lawler said. "She's a four-year player and captain."

Junior guard Christie Wade finished with 13 points for the Lady Explorers and her teammate, junior forward Laura Mummey, scored 12 points despite her shooting struggles.

Stow junior Alex Shaver might have been the most dangerous player on the floor.

The sweet-shooting guard made a bevy of jumpers and finished with a game-high 20 points.

Senior guard Julie Rooney, who got the crowd's attention with her pretty high-arcing jumpers, scored 17 points for the Lady Bulldogs. Stow senior guard Sarah Parsons added 13 points.

Unlike Lawler, Podges always enjoys playing the Lady Explorers. After all, the two veteran coaches go way back.

"Dennis is one of my best friends," Podges said. "Hudson and Stow have a great tradition. We've opted out of games to play each other."

The Lady Bulldogs were scheduled to visit Warren Harding Jan. 20 before returning home to play NOC archrival Cuyahoga Falls Jan. 22. Results of those games were not available at press time.

They are set to host Bedford Jan. 22, before heading to Massillon Jan. 26. Both junior varsity contests are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m.

Stow is set to host NOC River Division foe Medina Jan. 29. JV tip-off is scheduled for 4:30 p.m.

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