LAUREL HILL — It was just another night in a classic rivalry as Laurel Hill hosted Paxton in a District 1-1A boys basketball showdown.
Down 8-0 with two minutes gone in the first quarter the Bobcats came roaring back to take a 61-53 win.
The Hoboes (5-3, 3-2) could do nothing wrong in the first 2:07 of play as senior Lane Strickland and freshman Bryson Cooper helped Laurel Hill get off to a fast start.
Cooper had five points in the opening run and Strickland three points.
The Bobcats did little wrong the rest of the way.
William Anderson, who scored a game-high 31 points for the Bobcats, put Paxton on the board with 4:49 left in the first quarter.
Paxton outscored Laurel Hill 9-8 in the final minutes of the period with Anderson scoring seven points.
“The Paxton-Laurel Hill rivalry is always going to be a big game,” Bobcat coach Jeff Bradley said. “William Anderson has really stepped up and led us in ways we needed him to.
“He’s that unsung hero that goes out and plays with such emotion. Like all of our guys, he is very deserving to be that guy.”
The game swung in Paxton’s favor late in the first quarter when Hobo starters Strickland and Tamaria Calloway each picked up their second foul of the game.
Laurel Hill coach Kent Zessin elected to sit the starting pair the entire second quarter. The absence of Strickland and Calloway helped fuel an already hot Paxton team.
Anderson continued his offensive explosion scoring seven of Paxton’s nine points in the first three-and-a-half minutes of the second quarter.
Back-to-back Anderson baskets closed the Hobo lead to 16-13. An Austin Carnley 3-pointer pulled the Bobcats (9-0, 4-0) even with Laurel Hill. Anderson followed with a 3 to give the Bobcats the lead.
Even with Calloway and Strickland out of the Hoboes hung tough as Cooper and fellow freshman T.J. White kept Laurel Hill in the game.
The game was tied with 2:45 left in the half. But a Desmond Moore 3-pointer with 2:17 left in the second quarter put the Bobcats in front.
Paxton led 35-29 at the half, but with Strickland and Calloway back in the lineup the Hoboes quickly erased the Bobcat lead.
A Calloway bucket off a steal gave Laurel Hill a 41-38 lead with 3:46 left in the third quarter. A Carnley 3-pointer tied the game at 41-41.
Anderson’s 3 with 1:04 left in the third put the Bobcats in front once and for all.
Paxton led 45-41 at the end of the third quarter and Laurel Hill couldn’t close the gap in the final eight minutes.
With the game on the line in the fourth quarter the Bobcats converted free throws while the Hoboes struggled at the line.
“I felt like we came out real well playing the game plan we wanted to play,” Zessin said. “That (Strickland and Calloway getting in foul trouble) kind of broke up the momentum we had established.
“But we came back and fought back and kept it close. In the end they hit their free throws and we didn’t hit ours and that was the difference in the game.”
Paxton was 11-of-15 from the line in the game while the Hoboes struggled hitting just 14-of-28.
Carnley joined Anderson in double figures for the Bobcats with 12 points.
Cooper led Laurel Hill with 18 points. White added 12 points and Strickland 11.
Randy Dickson is the Crestview News Bulletin’s sports editor. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, tweet him @BigRandle, or call 682-6524.