TUSCOLA — Dakota Zenner wasn't quite ready for his basketball career to be over Tuesday night.
The Paxton-Buckley-Loda senior had a career night, scoring 22 points and grabbing 12 rebounds to lead his second-seeded team to a 51-40 win against seventh-seeded Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley in an opening-round game of the Class 2A Tuscola Regional.
Zenner was at his best in the fourth quarter, scoring three straight baskets to start an 18-2 PBL run that turned a four-point Panthers deficit with seven minutes remaining into a closer-than-the-score-indicated victory.
"It's that time of year where you're close to going home. I don't think he was ready to be done playing," said PBL coach Scot Vogel, whose squad got 12 points from Tanner Harris and 10 points from Weston Weber.
With PBL missing two of its regular starters in center Gauge Snider (injury) and wing Jordan Glad (suspension), Zenner's play was all the more important, especially late. Taking advantage of Snider's absence, the Falcons (2-25) held a 34-30 lead early in the fourth quarter behind the solid play of Jake Johnson (12 points) and Nick Retherford (11 points) before Zenner sandwiched a spinning layup between a pair of jumpers in a stretch that changed the game.
"I hit some shots and just got some confidence," Zenner said. "I knew if we stuck in there that at the end we'd pull it out because we're well-coached."
"He had a couple back-breaking shots ... and we just couldn't get anything to drop," said GCMS coach Ryan Tompkins, whose team was held without a field goal for almost six minutes to start the fourth quarter.
PBL (24-4) advanced to tonight's 8:10 semifinal against third-seeded St. Thomas More. The Panthers defeated the Sabers by 11 points in January.
This time, Glad will have to sit out while serving the final game of a school-imposed suspension, and Snider likely won't play as he recovers from a head laceration.
"It's not always going to be pretty. There's no style points. It's survive and advance, and we did that," Vogel said. "We're going through some adversity, but if we keep clawing and scratching, we'll have a chance to get (Glad and Snider) back."
STM 79, Tuscola 62. Jaycee Hillsman poured in a team-high 23 points for St. Thomas More, which received 16 points from Michael Rubenaker.
The Warriors, who trailed 31-21 at halftime, got a game-high 24 points from Dustin Haake. Phil Meyer added 14 points for Tuscola.