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PAXTON – There was not a lot of excitement on the offensive end during the first half of Tuesday’s high school boys basketball game between Tuscola and Paxton-Buckley-Loda.
However, one spark was provided by PBL’s Luke Fitton in the first quarter, as he received a lob pass from Dalton Coplea and slam dunked it through the basket for a go-ahead score to put the Panthers up 6-4 en route to a 51-29 PBL victory.
“He's just playing with so much confidence right now,” PBL head coach Adam Schonauer said. “He went up and got that, and that was an impressive dunk he had tonight.”
After Fitton recorded a steal on Tuscola’s ensuing possession, Luis Rodriguez sank a 3-pointer to extend PBL’s lead to 9-4 with 1:55 left in the first quarter.
He and Fitton each finished the first quarter with six points while Ray Kerkhoff made two baskets for Tuscola.
“Luis hit a couple of big 3-pointers there in the first quarter for us,” Schonauer said.
Luke Sluder made a basket before Kaleb Williams hit a game-tying 3-pointer for Tuscola. Rodriguez then made a buzzer-beating 3-pointer off the glass to give PBL a 12-9 lead going into the second quarter.
Both teams were held scoreless for nearly half of the second quarter before Kerkhoff scored on an offensive-rebound putback to cur the Warriors’ deficit to 12-11.
The PBL defense forced Tuscola to turn the ball over via a traveling violation in the backcourt with 7:04 left in the second quarter. With 4:20 left in the second quarter, Andrew Zenner missed a 3-pointer on PBL’s ensuing possession after Kerkhoff’s putback.
Fitton then blocked a shot with 3:20 left in the second quarter before Keaton Krumwiede drew a charging violation on Dalton Hoel with 2:45 remaining in the quarter. Kerhoff then gave Tuscola a 14-13 lead with a basket with 1:35 left in the second quarter.
After Kerhoff’s go-ahead basket, Zenner ended PBL’s scoring drought with a running jump shot to give PBL the lead back at 14-13. After Krumwiede recorded a steal on the Warriors’ ensuing possession, Zenner nailed a 3-pointer with 1:03 remaining in the second quarter to extend the Panthers’ a 17-13 lead.
Both teams were then held scoreless for the rest of the first half.
“I thought our defense was very good tonight,” Schonauer said. “We were very active. We were able to get a lot of deflections and steals, and we needed them tonight. We weren't very good offensively, but we were able to shut them down.”
The Panthers’ defensive prowess continued as Tuscola was called for a five-second inbound violation with 6:34 left in the third quarter. With 6:17 remaining in the third quarter, Sluder recorded a steal, but was called for a charging violation as he tried to score.
Zenner and Kerkhoff exchanged baskets to make the score 19-15 before PBL went on a 9-0 run.
Fitton scored on an offensive-rebound putback to extend the Panthers’ lead to 21-15 before recording a blocked shot and getting fouled by Tuscola’s Jaret Heath in transition with 4:04 left in the third quarter. Fitton made one of his two resulting free-throw attempts to extend PBL’s lead to 22-15.
Cole Eshleman and Zenner each made a 3-pointer to extend their team’s advantage to 28-15 before Tuscola’s Tyler Meinhold ended the run with a trey to cut his team’s deficit to 28-18.
Rodriguez then made the third of his four game-total 3-pointers to extend PBL’s lead to 31-18.
With 38.4 seconds left in the third quarter, Breyden VonLanken made two free throws to cut Tuscola’s lead to 31-20. Fitton then made a buzzer-beating layup on a Rodriguez assist to extend the Panthers’ lead to 33-20 to start the fourth quarter.
Eshleman started the fourth-quarter scoring with two free throws to extend PBL’s lead to 35-20 before a three-point play by Kerkhoff cut Tuscola’s deficit to 35-23. Kerkhoff then scored while being fouled to make the score 35-25.
The Panthers then went on a 13-0 run that included three 3-pointers. Colton Kleinert made the first of PBL’s treys before Zenner added two shots from beyond the arc to extend PBL’s lead to 44-25.
Eshleman then stole the ball and assisted Dalton Coplea on a basket with 3:08 left in the game to extend the Panthers’ lead to 46-25 before Zenner added a two-point field goal to make the score 48-25.
“Some shots fell, the offense came together, and it ended up being a nice win for us,” Schonauer said. “We were able to finally get some shots to go down there in the third quarter. We finally got the ball moving and got up and down a little bit. We were able to get some shots and knock them down, and once a couple went through the net, it gave other guys confidence, and we were able to build a lead there by getting ball movement and getting good shots.”
Jacob Craddock made a basket to cut Tuscola’s deficit to 48-27 before a Rodriguez 3-pointer extended PBL’s lead to 51-27. Cale Sementi made a shot for the Warriors to conclude the game’s scoring with 51-29.
Zenner finished the game leading PBL (17-7) in scoring with 18 points while Rodriguez and Fitton also scored in double figures with 12 and 11 points, respectively, for the Panthers.
“He's rebounding the basketball. He's finishing around the rim,” Schonauer said. “He's making post moves and going up with confidence. We need him to continue to grow, and as these other guys get back into rhythm shooting the basketball, we could be a tough out come next week in the postseason because he's somebody a lot of teams have struggled to guard. When he makes up his mind up that he wants to score around the rim and he wants to post up and be physical, there's not much opponents can do. He's definitely an X-factor for us going into the postseason.”
Eshleman scored five points for PBL while Kleinert and Dalton Coplea added three and two points, respectively.
For Tuscola, Kerkhoff led in scoring with 15 points, but no other Warrior finished with more than three points.
Panthers reach milestone
Tuesday’s win over Tuscola was PBL’s 501st victory since the school’s consolidation between Paxton and Buckley-Loda in 1990.
The Panthers reached the 500-win milestone with a win the previous Saturday over Warrensburg-Latham in the Riverton Shootout.
“It's really neat. I know our kids were really shooting to get it this year,” Schonauer said. “They're excited that they were able to get that for the program and for the community. It's an honor.”
Over the 27 years of the consolidation, PBL’s varsity boys basketball team won an average of 18.5 games per season.
During that time, the Panthers won eight regional championships – including the 2010-11 season in which they won a school-record 29 games – and made one state tournament appearance – a fourth-place finish in 1995-96 via a 27-7 record.
“That's a lot of wins for our basketball program over that period of time,” Schonauer said. “It's something to be proud of, not just for these guys, but everybody who was a part of the program.”
The Paxton-Buckley-Loda junior varsity boys basketball won 38-34 in overtime against Tuscola on Tuesday.
In the overtime period, Tuscola took a 33-32 lead via free throw with 1:05 remaining before Mason Ecker made what would be a game-winning 3-pointer with 46 seconds left to give PBL a 35-33 lead.
After another Warrior free throw cut the team’s deficit to 35-34, Drake Schrodt made two foul shots with 24 seconds remaining to extend the Panthers’ lead to 37-34. After Tuscola’s Will Little airballed a potential game-tying 3-pointer, PBL’s Andrew Swanson made a shot from the charity stripe to make the score 38-34.
In the first quarter, PBL took an 11-4 lead as Schrodt made two 3-pointer, Ecker added a trey and Austin Gooden made a two-point field goal. In the second quarter, Gooden and Dalton Busboom each made a basket as the Panthers went into halftime leading 15-12.
In the third quarter, PBL outscored Tuscola 13-6 as Ecker scored five points, Schrodt made a 3-pointer, Tanner Coe and Swanson each scored two points and Busboom added a free throw.
Busboom made two baskets for the Panthers’ lone fourth-quarter points as Tuscola outscored PBL 14-4. The Warriors’ Turner Hastings hit a game-tying 3-pointer with 20 seconds remaining in regulation.
Ecker and Schrodt each led the Panthers in scoring with 11 points while Busboom had seven points, Gooden had four points, Swanson had three points and Coe had two points.
PBL 51, Tuscola 29
TUS 9 4 7 9 -- 29
PBL 12 5 16 18 -- 51
Tyler Meinhold 1-0-3, Kaleb Williams 1-0-3, Jered Heath 0-0-0, Luke Sluder 1-0-2, Ray Kerkholl 7-1-15, Breyden VonLanken 0-2-2, Cale Sementi 1-0-2, Jacob Craddock 1-0-2. Totals 12-3-29.
Wolfgang Heisler 0-0-0, Dalton Coplea 1-0-2, Keaton Krumwiede 0-0-0, Luis Rodriguez 4-0-12, Tyler Pichon 0-0-0, Colton Kleinert 1-0-3, Jaxson Coplea 0-0-0, Cole Eshleman 1-2-5, Tom Henrichs 0-0-0, Luke Fitton 5-1-11, Andrew Zenner 7-0-18. Totals 19-3-51.
3-pointers – Tuscola 2 (Williams, Meinhold). PBL 10 (Zennner 4, Rodriguez 4, Kleinert, Eshleman).
PBL 38, Tuscola 34 (OT)
TUS 4 8 6 14 2 -- 34
PBL 11 4 13 4 6 -- 38
Will Little 2-1-6, Haden Cothron 2-0-5, Turner Hastings 2-0-6, Cale Sementi 0-1-1, Jacob Craddock 0-0-0, Lucas Kresin 0-0-0, Wynniger 0-0-0, Jacob Kibler 6-0-12, Noah Woods 1-2-4, Brayden VonLanken 0-0-0. Totals 34
Mason Ecker 3-2-11, Drake Schrodt 3-2-11, Trey VanWinkle 0-0-0, Tanner Coe 1-0-2, Tommy Quinn 0-0-0, Austin Gooden 2-0-4, Andrew Swanson 1-1-3, Colton Coy 0-0-0, Dalton Busboom 3-1-7. Totals 13-6-38.
3-pointers – Tuscola 4 (Hastings 2, Little, Cothron). PBl 6 (Ecker 3, Schrodt 3).