Three-point play by Austin Gooden propels PBL boys basketball to 53-51 win over Watseka

PAXTON -- For the third straight year, a boys basketball game between Paxton-Buckley-Loda and Watseka came down to the final seconds.
 
In the 2016 IHSA Class 2A Iroquois West Regional semifinals, Andrew Zenner converted on a three-point play with 3.4 seconds left to lift PBL to a 60-58 victory over Watseka.
 
In 2017, a buzzer-beating 3-pointer by Luke Fitton lifted the Panthers to a 51-48 overtime victory over Watseka that helped propel PBL to an outright Sangamon Valley Conference regular-season title.
 
On Friday, it was PBL junior Austin Gooden's turn to provide the heroic three-point play.
 
He scored on an offensive-rebound putback with 4.3 seconds remaining while being fouled and made his ensuing free-throw attempt as the Panthers won another tight contest against Watseka by a score of 53-51.
 
“I couldn't hear myself think after I made that shot," Gooden said. "I can't remember what happened after I made it.”
 
When PBL called timeout with 14.3 seconds left, head coach Adam Schonauer called a set play for senior Tyler Pichon to go to the basket for a shot in the lane, a shot that was missed, but later rebounded and put back in the basket by Gooden.
 
“We have a set play there that we run in a game at end-of-quarter-type situations, kind of a special play," Schonauer said. "We've worked on it before at, but in an end-of-game situation, it doesn't always work out like you draw it up on the dry-erase board, and then it comes down to the players making plays. 
 
"Tyler got it started by getting to the rim and keeping the ball alive, and then Austin was able to get fouled and finish off an offensive rebound. That's how you want to try and attack those end-of-game situations – just trying to get as many shots around the rim as you can.”
 
Like it did in 2017, PBL's win over Watseka may lead the Panthers to another SVC title. 
 
The victory propelled PBL above the .500 mark overall at 12-11 while improving its SVC record to 5-1, with its lone loss being at the hands of a Momence team that had a 4-1 conference record.
 
Cissna Park leads the conference race with a 5-0 SVC record and will face Momence next Saturday.
 
"Hopefully, Cissna Park can knock off Momence, and we can knock off Cissna Park, and we'll win that conference outright," Gooden said.
 
PBL will face Cissna Park on the road in its regular-season finale next Friday.
 
“We've talked about that, and our kids know that we're now in a position where that game could mean a whole lot for both teams," Schonauer said. "Late in the year, that's what you want – to be in games that matter, that mean something. 
 
"Our guys have gotten better. We're playing much harder right now. I think we can clean up just a few things on the offensive and defensive ends, but I really like where we're going toward the end of the basketball season.”
 
Before facing Cissna Park, PBL will face Tuscola on the road on Tuesday.
 
“If we can pick up two wins there, we'll be riding high into the postseason," Gooden said.
 
***
Following Gooden's game-winning bucket on Friday, Watseka's Ben Lyznicki missed a contested 3-point shot attempt at the final buzzer.
 
It was a trey by Lyznicki that gave the Warriors (17-9, 3-2 SVC) a 51-50 lead with 30 seconds remaining in the game. 
 
The Panthers started the fourth quarter with a 39-29 lead. 
 
Gooden was called for his fourth foul with 7:40 remaining before two free throws by Blake Castonguay cut Watseka's deficit to 39-31.
 
After Austin Sanders made a basket to lift PBL's lead to 41-31, the Warriors went on an 8-0 run.
 
Castonguay hit a 3-pointer before Justin McTaggart made a free throw with 5:17 left in the game. After a fastbreak layup was made by Brendan Fletcher with 5:01 remaining, another turnover led to Fletcher breaking away for a layup attempt before getting fouled by Mason Ecker.
 
Fletcher made a free throw with 3:42 left in the game to cut Watseka's deficit to 41-39.
 
Pichon then scored on a give-and-go to the lane via an assist from sophomore Dalton Busboom to make the score 43-39. 
 
Fletcher then made a 3-pointer to cut the Warriors' deficit to 43-42. After Ecker made a layup to extend PBL's lead to 45-42, a Castonguay 3-pointer tied the game at 45-45 with 2:04 remaining.
 
Sixteen seconds later, Gooden converted on a three-point play to give PBL the lead at 48-45. After Lyznicki tied the game with a 3-pointer, sophomore Drake Schrodt made two free throws with 1:02 left in the game to make the score 50-48.
 
“That was a really good high school basketball game. Both teams made shots and made plays there down the stretch. It was back-and-forth in the last two minutes of the game," Schonauer said. "It's good for our kids to come out on top of a game like that. It's a big confidence booster.”
 
***
The Panthers started the game with a 17-7 run.
 
Pichon scored on a driving layup before McTaggart made a basket and Fletcher made a free throw to give Watseka a 3-2 lead with 5:52 left in the first quarter. 
 
From there, PBL went on a 6-0 run as Gooden made a basket with 5:38 left in the first quarter before Pichon made two baskets to extend PBL's lead to 8-3.
 
After a basket by McTaggart made the score 8-5, the Panthers went on another 6-0 spurt as Schrodt and Pichon each made a 3-pointer to extend PBL's lead to 14-5 with 3:21 left in the first quarter. 
 
Pichon's nine first-quarter points led to a game-total -- and team-high -- of 17 points for him.
 
“Tyler played outstanding tonight. I don't know if his numbers this year are reflective of the type of player he is. He has struggled with shooting the ball," Schonauer said. 
 
"Tonight, he was the type of player we expect Tyler Pichon to be. He can hit shots from the outside. He can get to the rim. He's a really good free-throw shooter. Hopefully, that gives him some confidence that can carry over to his play toward the end of the season.”
 
Castonguay made a two-point basket before a 3-pointer by Schrodt made the score 17-7.
 
Watseka then went on a 9-0 run as a 3-pointer and two-point basket by Fletcher cut the Warriors' deficit to 17-12 by the end of the third quarter before Anthony Quinn made a basket and Fletcher scored on a fastbreak layup to make the score 17-16.
 
Pichon ended the run with 6:28 left in the second quarter with a 3-pointer before Lyznicki made a free throw with 5:41 remaining in the second quarter to cut the Warriors' deficit to 20-17.
 
A PBL turnover led to another fastbreak layup by Fletcher before a basket by McTaggart made a basket to give Watseka a 21-20 lead.
 
From there, the Panthers went on a 9-0 run.
 
Gooden made two free throws with 2:53 left in the second quarter to give PBL a 22-21 lead before a jump shot by Ecker extended the lead to 24-21.
 
With 2:08 remaining in the second quarter, Busboom scored while being fouled to make the score. Twelve seconds later, Pichon drained his third 3-pointer of the game to extend the Panthers' lead to 29-21.
 
“I was really confident in my shot," Pichon said. "I nailed one three, and then my confidence was very high. It was a good key to scoring a lot of points. That was a great game.”
 
***
Pichon was one of three PBL boys basketball players celebrating senior-night festivities prior to Friday's game against Watseka, which would be the last game on the Panthers' home court this season.
 
“It was really emotional knowing that this was my last game on the home court here at PBL, but I gave it all I got," Pichon said. "I just want to be remembered as a basketball player here at PBL.”
 
Pichon's future plans are to attend Wabash College to continue his basketball career and major in history.
 
“These seniors have all been with the program for four years. I'm just really proud of them," Schonauer said. "They've really grown up as men this year. They're fun to be around." 
 
Sanders, who finished Friday's game with two points, plans to attend Illinois Wesleyan University and major in accounting.
 
"Austin (Sanders) has bought into a role that was completely different from last year – starting some, coming off the bench some, but giving us minutes," Schonauer said. "He has given everything he has." 
 
Brady Barfield's future plans are to attend Parkland College and major in English.
 
"I've had really great conversations with Brady Barfield. He doesn't get to play a whole lot, but I can tell that he's a team-first guy," Schonauer said. "All three of these guys just want to win. They come out and practice hard every single night. They don't necessarily care about personal statistics. 
 
"They're all team-first guys, and I'm very proud of them for that. They're all great students. They're all really good people. They're going to be successful. I'm just appreciative that I got to spend a couple of basketball seasons with them.”
 
Like Pichon, Gooden also finished the game scoring in double figures with 12 points. 
 
“I just wanted to do it for those seniors," Gooden said. "They deserve it all.”
 
Schrodt finished in double figures as well with 10 points while Ecker had six points and Colton Coy and Busboom each had three points.
 
“I'm very proud of these guys," Pichon said. "I love these guys a lot, and they're going to be really good in the next couple of years.”
 
***
After McTaggart made two free throws with 1:56 left in the second quarter, Joey Jaskula scored on an offensive-rebound putback at the buzzer to cut Watseka's deficit to 29-25 at halftime.
 
In the third quarter, PBL's defense held Watseka to four points.
 
“Our effort defensively was really good in the third quarter," Schonauer said. "We weren't as tough or as engaged as we should have been in the first half. We shot the ball really well, but we didn't have a whole lot to show for it. 
 
"Defensively, we got much better in the third quarter. I felt like we left a few points out there with layups and free throws to really extend the lead, but our defensive effort was really good.”
 
The Panthers started the third quarter on a 7-0 deficit as Ecker made a basket before Gooden scored while being fouled with 7:08 left in the quarter. 
 
A free throw by Busboom made the score 34-25 with 6:25 remaining in the third quarter before Schrodt extended the lead to 36-25 with a basket.
 
Fletcher and Coy exchanged buckets to make the score 38-27 before a free throw by Castonguay with 1:47 left in the third quarter cut Watseka's deficit to 38-28.
 
Coy and Lyznicki then exchanged foul shots to make the score 39-29 with 27.6 seconds left in the third quarter.
 
***
Friday's game was the second one between PBL and Watseka in a span of one week.
 
The two teams met in the third-place game of the SVC Tournament the previous Saturday, with Watseka claiming a 60-42 win.
 
“It was a great turnaround for our kids. We knew we didn't play as well as we're capable of in that game on Saturday," Schonauer said. "There were a lot of stuff we could clean up pretty quickly. 
 
"Tonight, we came out, shared the basketball and knocked down shots. We were able to make some shots around the rim in crucial situations and knock down free throws down the stretch as well.”
 
The loss to Watseka followed a 45-40 win over South Newton in the SVC Tournament quarterfinals and a 58-51 loss to Cissna Park in the semifinals.
 
“I think that conference tournament helped us a lot," Gooden said.
 
Three days after their loss to Watseka, PBL won 67-54 over a Georgetown La Salette team that entered Tuesday's contest on a 13-game winning streak.
 
“This was a very good learning curve. La Salette's a very good basketball team," Pichon said. "In the beginning of the season, we didn't know if we could play with those guys, but as the season has progressed, I know we can play with anyone come regional time," Pichon said.
 
“La Salette was a big win for us. Watseka is in the top two in the conference," Gooden added.
 
One day prior to Friday's game, the IHSA released the seeds for the Class 2A postseason. PBL was selected as the sixth seed in the Maroa-Forsyth Sectional's sub-sectional A behind Bloomington Central Catholic, Monticello, Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley, Tri-Valley and Hoopeston Area.
 
The Panthers lost twice to Monticello and twice more to GCMS last December and once to BCC last January. They also lost last January to St. Joseph-Ogden, which was selected as the top seed in sub-sectional B.
 
However, with his team on a two-game winning streak against two high-quality opponents, Schonauer said he thinks his team should be battle-tested come postseason time.
 
“That's why you play those tough games against good, nonconference opponents hoping that they will prepare you for this type of a situation," Schonauer said. 
 
"I think the kids are starting to see why we wanted them to play teams like that and what we're trying to be as a program and as a team this year, and it has paid off the last couple of games being able to beat two really good basketball teams.”
 
The Panthers will face eighth-seeded Bismarck-Henning-Rossville-Alvin in the Hoopeston Area Regional quarterfinals at 6 p.m. Monday, Feb. 19. The winner of that game will face Monticello in the semifinals at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 20, with the regional championship game to be played 7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 23.
 
“We've got some things to do in the postseason," Gooden said. "Nobody thinks of us right now, but they will as soon as the postseason arrives.”
 
Junior varsity
The Paxton-Buckley-Loda junior varsity boys basketball team won 50-30 Friday over Watseka.
 
In the first quarter, PBL outscored Watseka 13-7 as Trey VanWinkle had seven points and Sam Penicook, Alex Rueck and Colton Coy each added two points.
 
Coy added eight more points in the second quarter while Penicook had four points and Jarred Gronsky had two points as the Panthers went into halftime leading 27-13.
 
In the third quarter, Gavin Coplea had four points while Penicook, Rueck and Coy each had two points. The Panthers then outscored Watseka 13-5 in the fourth quarter as Rueck had six points, Gunner Belt hit a 3-pointer and Gronsky and Coy each added a two-point basket.
 
Coy and Rueck each scored in double figures at the game's end with 14 and 10 points, respectively. Penicook had eight points, VanWinkle had seven points, Coplea and Gronsky each had four points and Belt had three points.
 
HIGH SCHOOL VARSITY BOYS
PBL 53, Watseka 51
WAT 12   13    4    22   -- 51
PBL 11   12   10   14   -- 53
Watseka (17-9, 3-2)
Blake Castonguay 3-3-11, Anthony Quinn 1-0-2, Justin McTaggart 3-4-10, Joey Jaskula 1-0-2, Ben Lyznicki 2-2-8, Brendan Fletcher 7-2-18, Drew Hagen 0-0-0, Sahib Singh 0-0-0. Totals 17-11-51.
PBL (12-11, 5-1)
Brady Barfield 0-0-0, Trey VanWinkle 0-0-0, Drake Schrodt 3-2-10, Mason Ecker 3-0-6, Tyler Pichon 7-0-17, Colton Coy 1-1-3, Austin Gooden 4-4-12, Austin Sanders 1-0-2, Ben Jarboe 0-0-0, Dalton Busboom 1-1-3, Andrew Swanson 0-0-0, Jake Rich 0-0-0. Totals 20-8-53.
3-pointers -- Watseka 6 (Castonguay, Lyznicki 2, Fletcher 2). PBL 5 (Pichon 3, Schrodt 2).
 
JUNIOR VARSITY
PBL 50, Watseka 30
WAT 7     6    12    5     -- 30
PBL 13  14   10   13    -- 50
Watseka
Curry 3-0-6, Wittenborn 3-3-11, LaBelle 0-0-0, Haines 0-0-0, Walwer 0-0-0, White 0-0-0, Bunting 4-0-8, Cluver 0-0-0, Albright 2-0-5, Giroux 0-0-0. Totals 12-3-30.
PBL
Gunner Belt 1-0-3, Gavin Coplea 2-0-4, Jarred Gronsky 2-0-4, Sam Penicook 3-2-8, Trey VanWinkle 3-0-7, Alex Rueck 5-0-10, Colton Coy 6-1-14. Totals 22-3-50.
3-pointers -- Watseka 3 (Wittenborn 2, Albright). PBL 3 (Coy, Belt, VanWinkle).

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