PAXTON – St. Thomas More coach Todd Anderson won't blame it on the weather, but icy roads almost cost the Sabers a chance at playing Tuesday night in their 43-40 loss to Watseka in the Sangamon Valley Conference tournament.
Parents helped the players reach the game, the first car arriving in Paxton with the five starters and one bench player – six players, no coach.
"Our bus broke down about 10 to 15 minutes away from here," Anderson said. "Obviously, it was pretty bad. But if we're always going to play this well with that kind of distraction, maybe we should have our bus break down more often."
Anderson was referring to the Sabers' quick start. St. Thomas More led 11-2 in the first quarter, allowing a two-point bucket with 3:35 left in the period.
Watseka did not score again until the 6:31 mark of the second quarter but made some late baskets to pull within 22-16 at halftime.
But a few key possessions in the third quarter cost the Sabers.
"Turnovers are our nemesis," Anderson said. "We had a stretch there where we didn't get any shots. We see improvement, but then we see the same mistakes again."
Zach Johnson led STM with eight points, while Jake Hasselbring scored eight of his 14 points in the fourth quarter to rally the Warriors.
Hasselbring essentially ended the game with free throws with 8.1 and 1.6 seconds left.
Overall, Anderson was happy with the way his team played, and he thinks his team will be a tough out at regionals.
"We were close, but we didn't get it done. It's back to the lab to figure it out."
PBL 45, CPCI 25
Dakota DeMoss and Kendall Cox each scored 13 points for the Paxton-Buckley-Loda in the win.
"Offensively, it was important to be ahead by more than just a possession or two," Panthers coach Scot Vogel said. "They're a good team defensively. They're no slouches."
PBL never trailed, jumping to a 6-0 lead on a DeMoss bucket and free throw and a Cox three-pointer.
Soon after that quick run, CPCI coach Kevin Long had his players take long possessions, many times holding the ball near halfcourt for a minute or more.
The first possession of the third quarter, with the Timberwolves down 22-14, saw a hold until they turned it over at the 5:57 mark.
Things got stranger after halftime. "Caution: wet floor" signs were placed just beyond the baseline of PBL's basket.
The problem? A light mist of water was coming through the ceiling.
That did not stop the Panthers from extending their lead, allowing Vogel to play some backups and rest key contributors for much of the second half.
One of those subs, Cameron Lovrant, came off the bench to add six points on two three-pointers.
"It's good to see those guys get out there," Vogel said. "I know our guys like to see the backups get in and play. They work hard. They deserve to play."