BAKER — The Baker School boys basketball team stood toe-to-toe with a talented Paxton squad taking everything the Bobcats could throw at them for three quarters Monday night.
The Gators trailed the Bobcats 41-40 heading into the final period. But the fourth quarter was a different story as Paxton pulled away to a 67-45 win.
“We finally got the guys in there and got our rhythm,” Bobcat coach Jeff Bradley said of his teams fourth quarter explosion. “We were just trying to find some chemistry early with some different guys in the lineup.
“It was a little smaller lineup than we usually put out there, but once the game went on we got our rhythm going. It was good learning experience for us.”
William Anderson scored 24 seconds into the game to give Paxton (5-0) its first lead of the night.
Baker answered with six straight points on a Richard Stroheker free throw, a pair of free throws by Austin Martin and a 3-point basket by Brooks Taylor.
The first quarter went back and forth between the teams and ended with the squads tied 12-12.
An Austin Carnley 3-pointer with 12 seconds gone in the second quarter sparked a 10-0 Bobcat run.
Taylor’s second 3-pointer of the night with 3:20 left in the first half closed the Bobcat lead back to seven points, but Baker (1-3) wasn’t able to make up any ground the rest of the quarter as Paxton led 30-21 at the half.
The Gators came alive in the third quarter as Justin Morgan hit two quick 3s. When Taylor bagged his third bucket of the night from beyond the arch the game was tied 30-30.
Paxton regained the lead on back-to-back baskets by Grant Stewart and Zach Varnum. Baker came right back with a 3-pointer by Austin Hicks and a basket by Stroheker.
The teams traded baskets in the closing moments of the third quarter. A three-point play by Hicks off a steal gave Baker a 40-39 lead with 17 seconds left in the third quarter, but the lead didn’t last long. Stewart scored with four seconds left in the quarter to put the Bobcats in front for good.
Stewarts’ basket started a 10-0 run that carried into the fourth quarter. An Anderson basket early in the fourth quarter was sandwiched between a pair of Stewart 3-pointers. A Carnley basket completed the run that was only interrupted by a Martin free throw for Baker.
Martin’s free throw ended a Gator scoring drought that lasted more than four minutes. By the time Morgan scored again for Baker the Bobcats were up 57-43 and had the game well in hand.
Gator assistant coach Daniel Batson said the coaches were proud of the way Baker battled and kept things close the first three quarters.
“I honestly think it was a game of emotions,” Batson said. “For 24 minutes (the first three quarters) we frustrated them and took them out of rhythm.
“We played about as near perfect basketball as we could play. They (the Bobcats) somehow, someway turned their anger for the first three quarters into forcing us to make mental mistakes and they took off.”
Batson went on to say the first three quarters showed that the Gators are capable of staying with a talented, well coached team.
“We played our best IQ game of the season,” he said. “For 24 minutes I can’t be more proud of the way we executed our game plan. It is very frustrating to know that for the last eight minutes it wasn’t the game plan, but the emotions of the game that got us.”
Stewart was the picture of consistency for the Bobcats on his way to a game high 26 points scoring 13 points in the first half and 13 in the second half. Carnely added 18 points and Anderson nine points.
Morgan topped the Gators with 15 points. Taylor pitched in nine. Hicks scored eight and Stroheker seven.
Randy Dickson is the Crestview News Bulletin’s sports editor. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, tweet him @BigRandle, or call 682-6524.