GREENPORT — The Hudson boys basketball team showed the kind of explosive unit it can be when clicking on all cylinders during the championship game of the Columbia-Greene Summer Basketball League on Thursday at Columbia-Greene Community College.
Down 14 points in the first half to arch rival Catskill, the Bluehawks went to work, outscoring the Cats, 18-5 in the final six minutes of the first half, then going on a 36-17 run in the second to post a 61-43 victory and win the summer league title.
Hudson earned a trip to the finals by grinding out a 47-44 semifinal victory over a tough Coxsackie-Athens team earlier in the evening. Catskill got to the finals by beating Saugerties, 60-43, in Thursday's other semifinal.
Hudson wraps up the summer season with a perfect 10-0 record, while Catskill closes with a 9-1 mark.
Hudson varsity assistant Tyrone Hedgepeth served as head coach of the Bluehawks for most of the summer season and couldn't have been prouder of the team's effort.
"It was a grind for the simple fact that Catskill is a well-coached team and Andy Gonzalez does a great job with the guys in the summer. They play hard for him," Hedgepeth said. "I'd like to give a big shout out to him because he gives up a lot of his summer to coach these guys and I respect that. It was tough, though, coming off one game and then coming back and playing another one 12 minutes later against a quality team like Catskill.
"Our guys dug in, they came though and I'm just so glad they believed in themselves, they believed in the system and what we were trying to do and the most important thing, they played unselfish. That gave us an opportunity to work on some things on the defensive end. I know we can score, but on the defensive end, that's what pretty much won our game."
Catskill came out on fire in the title game, rolling to a 10-2 lead over Hudson, six minutes in.The Bluehawks narrowed the gap to 12-7, but Catskill ran off nine straight points to widen its lead to 21-7. At that point, Coach Hedgepeth switched up Hudson's defense and the move paid off quickly. With Jaylen Hartfield pouring in nine points and Dayquan Griffin adding five, Hudson closed the deficit to 26-25 by halftime.
"We were playing a zone, a 3-2, the 2-1-2 and we were playing a little box," Hedgepeth said. "I saw that it wasn't working and it kind of had everyone playing lazy a little bit, so my thought was let's go man-to-man so each man has to be accountable for their guy, plus helping out. So we changed and went man-to-man and that changed the whole game around."
Catskill scored the first three points of the second half, but from that point on it was all Hudson. The Bluehawks took their first lead of the game, 31-30, on a Griffin basket with 16:12 left in the game and then turned up the defensive intensity, limiting the cats to just three field goals in the final 20 minutes.
Lavon Fernandez stepped up big time for Hudson, scoring 19 second-half points to finish with a game-high 23. Griffin added 15, Paul Gerido had 12 and Hartfield nine.
Justice Brantley led Catskill with 20 points. Melik Christian had nine, Devon Haye five, Logan Scott four, Kellen Gibbs three and Vonis Donely two.
"It's good to beat a quality team and Catskill is a quality team," Hedgepeth said. "Everybody in the conference knows that Catskill is one of the top teams, so to beat them says something about us. We know if we can beat this team we can beat a lot of other teams that come in. I'll sleep good tonight."
Hudson's road to the championship game was not an easy one as Coxsackie-Athens gave the Bluehawks all they could handle and then some. The Indians led by as much as seven in the first half and held a 24-23 edge at the intermission.
C-A was still up, 38-37, with 9:16 to play in the game, but Hudson outscored the Indians 10-6 the rest of the way to escape with the victory.
Fernandez paced Hudson with 21 points. Leviticus Johnson had nine, Griffin seven, Noah Hedgepeth six and Hartfield four.
Gil Bell had 10 points for C-A. Kane Schrader added nine, Aiden Boehm had eight, Tyler Oravsky seven, Josh Kiefer six and Jaylen Buckner four.
The start of Thursday's opening semifinal game between Catskill and Saugerties was delayed by a half an hour because the Sawyers were late getting to the gym, but once the game began the Cats quickly seized control, racing to a 32-14 lead by halftime and never looking back.
Brantley had a monster game for the Cats, pouring in 32 points. Christian had eight, Gibbs seven, Haye six, Donely four and Scott two.