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Nordonia senior Ryan Smith was 0-5 from the field when the Knights traveled to Suburban League adversary Hudson Jan. 27 as his team looked to garner its first league win of the season.
Don't feel bad for the 6-7 forward -- he was perfect from the charity stripe.
Smith not only went 6-6 from the line to lead Nordonia to a 17-25 effort, he was 4-4 when they meant the most. Smith swished through both ends of two double-bonus situations in the final seconds to help the Knights hold off a Hudson rally 44-40.
The win lifted Nordonia to 1-6 in Suburban League National Conference play and 2-12 overall. The Explorers fell to 5-9, 1-6 in the National Conference.
Trailing 35-22 heading into the fourth quarter, Hudson rallied to score 12 unanswered points to close to 35-34 with 2:56 left to play and held Nordonia without a field goal the entire period.
The Knights countered converting 9-12 at the stripe down the stretch with Smith draining a pair with 26.4 on the clock (41-37) and 4.0 left for the 44-40 final score.
"Big free throws down the stretch," Knights coach Mike Griffen said of Smith's heroics. "He has been in and out --he has a back problem. He had to play short stints. He toughed it out. He was 6-6 or something down the stretch. You can't ask for much more."
Smith's late free throws ruined a great second half by Hudson's Spencer McClure. The 6 foot senior matched a career high with 19 points scoring 17 of them after intermission and ten in the fourth quarter rally. He also had three steals in the final frame to help stymie the Knights offense.
"He (McClure) had big shots and he played hard at the defensive end too," Hudson coach Jeff Brink said. "He hit a couple threes, took it to the rack. If he didn't make plays we would have not been in that position to win the game."
McClure scored his squad's first seven points in both second half stanzas. In the fourth his teammates took over from there with Alex Beck drilling a three-ball and Davey Spitz hitting both ends of a huge one-and-one situation to make the score 35-34 with 2:56 left.
The game ultimately came down to one possession and one shot.
Trailing 39-37, the Explorers worked for a good shot and got it. Sophomore William Wallace got an open look, from the right corner, for the lead.
His shot rimmed out with Smith grabbing his fifth rebound and drawing a foul with the 26.4 ticks left.
The Explorers struggled to score early on falling behind 4-11 mid-way through the first.
Nordonia's Julius Jones got the visitors off to a fast start scoring his team's first six points on his way to an eight point night.
The Knights led 13-9 after one and stretched their advantage in the second quarter holding Hudson to two field goals. The score was 25-13 at the half.
McClure got Hudson off to a nice start in the third quarter but Nordonia closed out strong. Tye Evans scored six of his team high 10 points in the stretch drive to build the 35-22 lead after three.
Hudson's furious rally to start the fourth had Griffen having flashbacks.
"That's been kind of our M.O. we have been up in games a lot. In games past, when they make that run, we tend to hang our heads and feel sorry for ourselves," Griffen said of the scoring drought that lasted 5:17. "In practice we have been coaching to stay with it and keep working. They did it and I'm proud of them. We were 9-12 in the fourth from the free throw line and that was good enough to get it done."
Hudson was 5-11 at the line for the game.
Hudson shot 35 percent (15-42) while the Knights were 13-34 (38 perecent).
"It just feels good to win. The basketball season is a grind. To have a win to hang your hat on has been real hard for us. I'm proud of the kids for fighting and getting a win," Griffen added.