By REID TUCKER
Paxton basketball fans got their money’s worth on the Bobcats’ senior night, as the boys’ double-overtime contest was settled by a single point in the home team’s favor, while the girls took out Baker by a 12-point margin.
Fittingly, considering the occasion, both Paxton squads were led in scoring on Tuesday, Jan. 24, by that team’s respective senior anchor. Chad Zessin scored a 24 points, though he had help from the bench to take the close 55-54 victory over Baker (9-12), as every other player for the Bobcats (17-5) scored at least once, with Dustin Geohagan scoring 13. Alyssa Dupree had a 23-point performance for the Lady Cats (19-4), almost singlehandedly pulling the team to its 54-42 win over Baker’s girls (19-3).
The going was tough for both Paxton and Baker through halftime as neither team had the best shooting percentage, though that was at least partially explained by the full-court press employed on both sides. Paxton led 11-9 in the first quarter but Baker tied the game 30 seconds into the second, while, in the meantime keeping the Bobcats scoreless until just 2:30 remained before the half. Paxton scored just one shot from the floor before the buzzer as Ryan Gilbert nailed a fadeaway with four seconds showing.
The Bobcats emerged from the locker room on a much more favorable third quarter, though Baker also stepped up its game in the shooting department, with the two teams going 3-for-6 and 3-for-4 from the floor and neither team had a turnover. Zessin began to hit his stride, scoring eight points to put Paxton down just 25-20 about the halfway mark and Paxton outpointed the Gators 13-7 in the period to trail 30-27.
Zessin scored at will in the fourth quarter, taking Paxton from a one-point deficit to a 37-all situation with 1:35 left in regulation. However, two failed free-throw attempts left the score where it was and the game went into two overtimes.
Paxton pulled ahead a point or two only to have Baker tie it up as both teams burned through their remaining timeouts in an effort to halt the other side’s momentum. The Bobcats continued to feed the ball to Zessin, who continued to hammer in baskets in the lane, while Baker’s top scorer, Josh Hartzog, scored most of his 22 points from the stripe, going 12-for-15 on the night. The Bobcats’ victory was sealed as a key offensive rebound with just 10.9 seconds remaining in the second OT prevented Baker from ball down court with sufficient time to score.
The girls’ game was also close.
Dupree and Lizzie Murray score nine and eight points, respectively, to do the biggest part of giving Paxton a 21-10 lead on Baker in the first quarter, a deficit they more or less kept through the duration of the game. That early lead proved to be a good thing as the Lady Gators actually marginally outscored Paxton in individual periods to follow. Baker edged Paxton 10-9 and 9-8 in the second and third quarters but the Lady Cats had a 16-13 advantage by the end of the game, good enough for the win.
After the first quarter the game was most mostly a duel between Dupree and Baker’s high-scorer, junior Cassidy Anderson, who scored 19 on the night. Dupree was the only Lady Cat to score in all four quarters of the game though she did not match her first-period performance and finished the game at .500 from the free-throw line, going 7-for-14. By contrast, Anderson did her work exclusively from the perimeter and at the stripe, scoring five 3-pointers and going 4-for-5 in free throws.
The wins marked the final regular-season games the two Paxton teams will play on their home court, though the Lady Cats, as the reigning District 1-A champs, will host the tournament in a few weeks time. The boys’ team, however, must take the game on the road, where they will likely face a tough Malone squad to decide the championship.