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Fitch eliminated by Hudson in tourney opener

AUSTINTOWN — The Hudson Explorers changed things up a bit. That change going into the tournament game with Austintown Fitch caused a lot of problems for the Falcons as they fell, 68-43, in Division I sectional first-round contest on Saturday afternoon.

The Explorers recently implemented a half-court trapping defense that forced the Falcons into 13 first-quarter turnovers and 37 total for the game. Adding to the Falcons’ woes was poor shooting in the first half as they only hit 22 percent of their shots from the field.

“For 23 games our kids have played hard. And we put that trapping defense in here in about the last five or six games where we switched up from man-to-man, run and jump, and went back to this one because we thought it would help us a little bit more and take away some things,” Explorers coach Dennis Lawler said.

“I wasn’t expecting that,” Falcons coach Dan Schnurrenberger admitted. “But with that being said, we have seen a little bit of a trapping defense before, and we needed someone to step up and take charge and be strong with the basketball.”

The Explorers, at 9-14 on the season, will now face the top-seeded Warren G. Harding Raiders in a sectional bracket final Thursday night in Warren. The Falcons close the season with an 8-15 record.

The bright spot for the Falcons in the game was the outside shooting of freshman guard Zayda Creque. Creque connected on a personal-best five 3-pointers in the game to score a game-high 20-points.

“She had five 3’s in her first tournament game,” Schnurrenberger said. “I’m proud of Zayda. Zayda puts in work, she practices hard and she shot the ball well for us tonight. There is a very, very bright future for Zayda Creque in Fitch girls basketball.”

“Being a freshman is a lot of work to get this far, and a lot of freshmen don’t get this opportunity, so it was definitely nerve-wracking trying to win this. But it was fun and I can’t wait until next season,” Creque said. “In the offseason, I’m going to continue to get better and play a lot of basketball and get stronger.”

The Explorers used their new defense to help propel them to a quick 15-0 in the game with the Falcons not hitting a basket from the field until the 2:15 mark when Emma Bartlett scored on a put-back bucket. The Explorers went on to hold a commanding 21-5 lead at the end of the first period.

“Hudson was flying around and we weren’t being very strong with the basketball,” Schnurrenberger said. “That was a bad mix for us to start the game off like that. Maybe it was a little lack of focus and the first time in that situation for some of them. We weren’t aggressive off the bat like we needed to be.”

The Falcons didn’t fare much better in the second quarter as the Explorers began the frame with a 7-0 run to push out to a 28-5 advantage midway through the stanza. When Jocelyn Weaver of the Explorers converted a layup just a tick before the intermission, the Explorers enjoyed a 34-13 lead at the break.

The Explorers kept the momentum to start the second half as they built a 31-point, 55-24 lead at the end of the third quarter. They would go on to stretch their advantage to a game-high 33-points early in the fourth quarter when they pulled out to a 59-26 lead. The Falcons however, showed a lot of heart as they closed the game with a 12-4 run to end the contest.

“We ended up finishing the season with a 10-girl rotation, so I’m always proud of the effort the girls give. They have great attitudes,” Schnurrenberger said of his team. “I think that’s the first thing you need, to get a full one-hundred percent effort. And when you have that you can build on it and not forget games like this, but remember games like this in the summertime. This is the motivation to flat out get better.”

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