Hudsons’ heroics hurl Panthers into region championship games


Shelby Foster

Senior Emily Nieuwstraten and sophomore Alice Anne Hudson embrace following Hudson’s last-second three-pointer that gave Starr’s Mill the 44-42 victory. The win propelled Starr’s Mill to the region championship game against Fayette County.

Rilee Stapleton, Editor-in-Chief

Neither basketball team at Starr’s Mill has ever won a region championship, but this year, both teams will have a chance to change that.

Last night, senior forward Drew Hudson carried the boys to a 15-point win over Morrow, while his sister, sophomore guard Alice Anne Hudson, played hero for the girls in their narrow 44-42 win over Griffin. The brother-sister duo combined for 52 points on the night.

Shelby Foster
A Panther player dribbles by a Morrow defender. Senior forward Drew Hudson scored 28 points against Morrow, and sits only 34 points away from 1,000 career points.

“This is a great accomplishment for our school,” head boys’ coach Brandon Hutchins said. “It’s a big honor for our kids.”

The matchup against Morrow was the first game of the tournament for Starr’s Mill. Only four players scored for the Panthers, but they had enough offense to defeat the Mustangs. Most of that offense came from Drew, who scored 28 of the Mill’s 47 points. Junior guard Julian Lynch scored 12 points, but had to leave the game in third quarter due to an injury.

Senior forward Marlon Lewis led Morrow with 15 points, while the rest of the team combined for 17 points. The Mustangs’ full-court press wreaked havoc on the Starr’s Mill offense, but Morrow failed to turn their extra opportunities into points.

“I was just feeling it tonight,” Drew said. “[Lynch] left the game so I knew I’d have to step up and score some more.”

The first four minutes of the game were fast paced and full of action. Drew scored four quick points and the Panthers built an early lead. Once they had the lead, they slowed the offense down and took time on their possessions. Starr’s Mill passed the ball around the outside and dropped passes to cutters for easy baskets. Morrow’s poor shooting and turnovers put them in a 12-5 hole after one quarter.

The second quarter was very similar to the first, as the teams played at a slow pace and looked for easy shots. The Mill’s points came almost exclusively from layups or free throws, while Morrow continued to struggle from the field. The Panthers led 21-8 going into halftime.  

“We handled the pressure once we settled down,” Hutchins said. “Once we settled down and got the ball in [Drew Hudson’s] hands, he showed everyone why he was the Region 3-AAAAA Player of the Year.”

Morrow began to run a full-court press in the second half of the game. The press disrupted Starr’s Mill and the Panther began to turn the ball over. Morrow scored on layups from fast breaks and offensive rebounds and the Mustangs cut into their deficit. By the end of the third quarter, Morrow only trailed by 10, 34-24.

Morrow’s defense forced more turnovers in the fourth quarter, but couldn’t convert on offense. Drew scored 10 of the teams 13 fourth quarter points and ultimately closed out the Mustangs, 47-32. The Panthers buckled down on defense and prevented a comeback from Morrow, and in doing so advanced to the second consecutive region championship game for the first time in school history.

“We turned the ball over a lot,” senior guard Jake Bishop said. “We have to take care of the ball more if we want to win [the region].”

The Starr’s Mill boys didn’t have too much to worry about, as they held a double-digit lead for most of the game. The Lady Panthers on the other hand, spent most of their semifinal matchup playing from behind.

Alice Anne hit key shots, including a game winner at the buzzer, and made many clutch defensive plays down the stretch for the Mill. She totaled 24 points, four steals, two rebounds, and two assists on the night.

Griffin was hot behind the three-point line, which helped them build and maintain their lead. However, their carelessness on offense to close out the game ended up costing them a shot at the region championship.

Shelby Foster
A Lady Panther player looks for a teammate for a pass. The Lady Panthers’ ball movement was lackluster at some points, but their offense improved in the second half and led to a berth in the region championship game.

“I just pushed my teammates as hard as I could push them,” Alice Anne said. “We had confidence in each other throughout the whole game.”

The Bears opened the game strong, connecting on three three-pointers early. Starr’s Mill played sloppy on both sides of the ball, but managed to keep up with Griffin. Both teams turned the ball over which resulted in a low scoring first quarter. After the opening period, Griffin led 14-9.

The second quarter didn’t see many changes from the first. The teams went back and forth without anyone gaining much momentum. The Lady Bears led the game for the entire first half, and went to the locker room up 24-20.

“At halftime we were down by four, and on Senior Night we were down by one [at halftime],” senior Emily Nieuwstraten said. “We had been here before, and we knew what to expect.”

Starr’s Mill came out of halftime with more energy, and they worked to cut into their small deficit. Once again, the teams fought back and forth, but the Panthers couldn’t gain a lead. By the end of the third, they still trailed 33-31.

The fourth quarter played out as expected. The teams’ played another eight minutes of close basketball, with no one gaining an edge. However, in this quarter the Lady Panthers finally gained a lead. With under two minutes left, sophomore guard Ashtyn Lally hit a three-pointer to put the Panthers up 39-38. Griffin responded with a three of their own to retake the lead 41-39 with under a minute left. After a Lally misfire, the Lady Bears secured the rebound and attempted to run a fast break. Alice Anne stripped the ball from a Griffin player and layed the ball in to tie the game.

Griffin inbounded the ball with 11 seconds left and missed a three. A Lady Bear grabbed the offensive rebound, but junior Panther Alyssa Angelo blocked the put back. However, the referees blew the whistle, sending Griffin to the free throw line. After making one of two, Starr’s Mill called a time out. They had 2.1 seconds to go the length of the floor. After their designed play didn’t work, Nieuwstraten inbounded the ball to Alice Anne, who took four dribbles before throwing up a shot from halfcourt. The ball rattled through the basket as time expired, and the Panthers captured a 44-42 win.

“It kinda didn’t feel real at first,” Alice Anne said. “I thought I airballed it, but it went in.”

Both teams at Starr’s Mill will have an opportunity to win their first ever region titles. The girls will look to upset the top seed Fayette County Tigers, a team they’ve lost to twice this season. The boys have another matchup with their crosstown rival McIntosh. The girls play at 7 p.m. and the boys follow at 8:30 p.m. Both games are at Riverdale High School.