BAKER — Tuesday night’s season-opening girls basketball game between North Okaloosa rivals Laurel Hill and Baker was typical of early-season games. At times, the play was sloppy and both teams are still finding their basketball legs that will come as they get in better shape a few weeks into the season.
There also were moments that gave hope to both the Hoboes and Gators.
However, when the final horn sounded, Baker’s Cassidy Anderson had scored a game-high 17 points, leading the Gators to a 46-30 win.
Baker got off to a fast start in the first quarter, taking a 12-3 lead at the end of the period behind Anderson’s eight points.
A 3-point basket by Laurel Hill’s Bree Owens 20 seconds into the second quarter cut the Gator lead to 12-6 — and that’s as close as the Hoboes (0-1) got the rest of the game.
Every time Laurel Hill went on a run to get the score to cut the Baker lead to less than 10 points, the Gators answered with their own run to keep the visitors at arm’s length.
“Once we cut the lead to eight, we couldn’t dig any deeper,” Hobo coach Scott Varnum said. “We had some missed opportunities down the court, but we were proud of our defensive effort tonight. We played some good defense.
“They are a really good team. They’ve got some great shooters and are senior loaded. You can tell they are experienced. We have some young players that got some more experience tonight. It’s a long journey this season.”
The Gators were up 23-12 at the third quarter’s start, but Ruby Williams’ quick 3-pointer cut the Baker lead to eight at 23-15. The Gators responded with three straight baskets by Anderson, Victoria Voorhees and Bethany Chestnut as Baker increased the lead back to double digits.
Laurel Hill got back to within eight points of the Gators early in the fourth quarter on a Grace Reese basket, but Anderson and Kathryn Quigg scores for Baker pushed the lead back to 12 and Baker maintained the double-figure lead the rest of the game.
Anderson was joined in double figures in scoring for the Gators by Chestnut, who had 10 points. Quigg had seven points; Voorhees and Lilly Phillips each had six points for Baker, which played without three players, Haley Wagner, Kaitlin Rickmon and Falin Lawson, members of the school’s volleyball team who played in the state tournament Thursday.
Ty DeAndrade led Laurel Hill in scoring with 10 points. Reese added eight points and Owens six points.
Gator coach Brian Wagner was happiest to get the win, but he also saw some things the Gators, the defending District 2-1A champions, can build on.
“We had moments even without Haley being here (at point guard),” he said. “Sarah Hudson has come on. Victoria Voorhees stepped up her game tonight as well and Bethany Chestnut.
And, of course, you have your mainstays with Kathryn (Quigg) and Cassidy Anderson. I see improvement, but I also see a lot of areas to work.”