By REID TUCKER
No greater rivalry in local high school basketball exists than this: the concession stand won’t even sell blue Powerade when Paxton hosts Laurel Hill.
Whether it is sports drinks or conquests on the court, Paxton’s fans and players have seen only red in the team’s recent past against the Hoboes. The Bobcats (8-1, 3-0) continued that trend on Friday Dec. 17, as Shaq Jackson’s game-high 31 points led them a blowout 78-58 victory over Laurel Hill (8-2, 5-1), a ninth straight win against their pitched foes. Jackson was backed up by Chad Zessin, who scored 19 points (and played what coach Jeff Bradley said was the best game of his varsity career), and Josh McLaney, who racked up 16 points, nine of which came via three 3-pointers.
Bradley was exceedingly proud of the effort displayed by the team considering the stakes of the game, which extended beyond just the longstanding rivalry. Both squads were undefeated in the district with just one overall loss apiece. What’s more, the Bobcats had played seven games in 10 days (compared to Laurel Hill’s two in the past week), including a 57-38 win over Baker on Thursday.
“The biggest thing about tonight was coming off of seven games in 10 days,” Bradley said. “It was really a test of our endurance and character. To come into this rivalry game in this setting at the end of a big stretch and get a win was really beyond huge for us.”
The first quarter was characterized by Paxton striking early and often, favoring the fast break press offense. Jackson and Zessin score with impunity, accounting for eight points apiece, while McLaney added six. The closest Laurel Hill got in the game was 9-4, after which the Bobcats laid on basket after basket to stretch the lead to 22-11 by the end of the first quarter.
Laurel Hill’s Seth Strickland had to take up the slack from team mate and top-scorer Issaic Williams, who got in foul trouble after scoring just two points in the period. Strickland rose to the occasion though, scoring 26 points over the course of the game. None of Laurel Hill’s other players got above 10 points, which Hoboes head coach Kent Zessin (the uncle of Paxton’s Chad Zessin) said was indicative of the problems the team faced on the court.
“I felt like we didn’t play well together as a team,” Zessin said. “I felt a couple players played their tails off and two or three didn’t. In a district game you’ve got to come out and do the little things. The extra effort is what it takes to win a ballgame of this caliber in this type of rivalry….”
Read the full story in the December 23, 2010 edition of the Herald Breeze.