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Hudson -- Over the last four years, a certain towering All-Ohioan from Twinsburg had a knack for putting on a show at Hudson High School's Ray "Buck" Hyser Gymnasium.
Unfortunately for Lady Explorers' fans, another All-Ohioan from Twinsburg also seems to enjoy playing in Hudson's gymnasium.
Thanks to senior guard Ashley Morrissette's game-high 26 points, the defending two-time Division I state champion Lady Tigers cruised to a 68-48 victory over the Lady Explorers Dec. 19.
With the win, Twinsburg improved to 8-0 overall and 4-0 in the Northeast Ohio Valley Conference Valley Division. Hudson dropped to 5-2 overall and 2-1 in the division.
Morrissette, who recently signed to play at Purdue University in Indiana, scored 14 points in the first quarter. She had three consecutive three-pointers in the first three minutes as the Lady Tigers jumped out to an 11-2 lead.
Morrissette's range seemed to stretch from Stark County to Cuyahoga County.
Her three-pointer at the buzzer from several feet beyond the arc gave Twinsburg a 33-22 lead at halftime. She also knocked down a long two-pointer in the closing seconds of the third quarter to give Twinsburg a 51-36 advantage heading into the final eight minutes.
Interestingly enough, the All-Ohio guard was the Lady Tigers' second fiddle in previous years.
That's because Twinsburg had a 6-foot-4 All-American named Malina Howard, who also had her way at Hyser Gymnasium. Howard is now playing for the University of Maryland.
These days, it's safe to say the Lady Tigers' hopes of a three-peat will rest upon their do-everything playmaker.
"I know the girls are looking up to me more, but I try to lead by example," Morrissette said. "Hudson, like every team, has that mentality that they can beat us. We're definitely a lot better than we were at the beginning of the season."
And Morrissette has a number of talented teammates to enjoy the success.
Hudson does too. But the Lady Explorers, who managed to keep the game reasonably close for more than two quarters, haven't quite reached the Lady Tigers' otherworldly status yet.
They're getting a little closer, though.
"I was proud of how hard we played," Hudson head coach Dennis Lawler said. "We executed and tried to do the things we wanted to do. A lot of kids stepped up."
The Lady Explorers had difficulty with Twinsburg's speed and athleticism. And the Lady Tigers don't seem to have any weaknesses.
Hudson, which thrives on ball-pressure and making ball-handlers as uncomfortable as possible, had fits dealing with the relentless Twinsburg defenders.
The Lady Tigers, who earned a 24-19 win in the junior varsity contest, forced a number of turnovers, which led to a handful of easy baskets.
At times, Hudson disrupted Twinsburg's well-oiled machine too. But the Lady Explorers missed a number of shots from point-blank range.
"We were pretty inconsistent, but it's kind of nice to be inconsistent and still win by 20," Lady Tigers head coach Julie Solis said.
While Morrissette, who also entertained the crowd with her dazzling ball-handling skills, crisp passing and intimidating shot-blocking skills, is the team's leading lady, Twinsburg has a number of stars on this team.
And two of those players also are future Division I college players.
Senior guard Brooke Smith, who showed a precise shooting touch with 18 points, recently signed to play at Cleveland State University. Char-dell Dunningan, a 6-foot-2 post player, signed her national letter of intent at George Mason University in Virginia. Lady Tigers' junior guard Baleigh Reid added 13 points.
Hudson's Division I player had another strong game.
Hannah Boesinger, a 6-foot-2 post player who signed at Youngstown State University, managed to muscle her way to a team-high 20 points. She also made all six of her free-throw attempts. Junior guard Jackie Ulmer finished with 13 points for the Lady Explorers.
"I consider this game a rivalry," Twinsburg head coach Solis said. "Dennis is a great coach and his teams are always going to play hard. You always have to bring your 'A' game against them [the Lady Explorers]."