By Dana Harding (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Springfield, Mo. — After falling to Marshfield two weeks ago, Camdenton found itself in a similar situation in Thursday’s Gold Division quarterfinal matchup.
Trailing by nine points midway through the fourth quarter, the Lakers were in desperate need of a spark.
Good thing Paxton Delaurent answered the call.
The 6-foot-4 junior connected on a trio of 3-pointers and rallied the Lakers to a 54-51 victory.
Despite being held to just a pair of free throws through the first three quarters, Delaurent wasn’t about to concede with the game — and tournament — on the line.
“Shooters gotta shoot,” Delaurent said. “That’s what we’ve always been told. If it’s not going in, they trust me to keep shooting. I knew when we were down nine there, we had to get going. I had the first look and, once it went in, I just kept going.”
Delaurent’s 9-0 rally, according to Camdenton head coach Craig Campbell, was made possible by a sagging Marshfield zone intent on smothering the Laker’s high post attack.
“I think the biggest thing was the fact that we’d been going into Kelton Virtue so much, that they were kind of packing it in on him, which was leaving [Delaurent] open, and he hadn’t hit one all night so that helped — they didn’t think he was on.”
Virtue finished with ten points for the Lakers, scoring mostly from the free throw area.
While the 6-foot-4 senior was held without a basket in the first half, a pair of late jumpers in the third quarter drew Delaurent’s attention.
“Once I saw Kelton make a couple elbow jumpers, I knew [Marshfield] was going to have to settle in,” Delaurent said. “I was, like, ‘Yeah … here we go.’”
Delaurent’s heroics aside, the game appeared to be Camdenton’s early on — at least for a quarter.
The Lakers jumped out to a 10-0 advantage from the opening tip, thanks in part to a pair of 3-pointers from seniors Keegan Ford and T.J. Anderson.
Marshfield finally answered at the four-minute mark with a 3-pointer of its own from senior Triston Letterman and rallied to cut the deficit to 15-9 at the end of the quarter.
“The quick start was a big thing to get some confidence in the first quarter,” Campbell said. “We played Marshfield about two weeks ago and didn’t play very well. They were wanting to come out and show that we were the better team, and I felt like we did that in the first quarter — and then we didn’t.”
Midway through the second quarter, Marshfield tied the game at 17-17 on a basket from senior Bryson Peck.
Over the course of the next 12 minutes, the two teams traded the lead back and forth five times before the Blue Jays were finally able to start stretching the advantage in the fourth quarter.
Baskets by Letterman and a pair of 3-pointers from junior Drew Cromer gave Marshfield its biggest lead of the game at 48-39.
Just prior to the Delaurent barrage.
After a Letterman basket with five seconds remaining cut the deficit to one point, the Blue Jays fouled Virtue immediately on the inbounds play.
Virtue connected on both free throws to seal the 54-51 victory for the Lakers.
While long-range shooting helped get his team back into the contest, Campbell attributed the win to Camdenton’s staunch defensive effort over the final four minutes.
“If we didn’t start playing better defense, then it was over,” Campbell said. “They stepped up and started playing better on defense — got some stops, got some steals and got some easy buckets. If we hadn’t done that, Marshfield would have won it.”
Ford and Virtue joined Delaurent in double figures with 11 and 10 points, respectively, for Camdenton.
Despite the loss, Marshfield head coach Adam Carpenter wouldn’t change much with his team’s approach — save for contesting the open looks given to Delaurent late in the game.
“Our dialogue is hand-to-forehead,” Carpenter said. “Nothing really to do different. We just have to know when a guy’s hot and having our hand on his forehead as soon as he catches it and making those shots as tough as possible.”
Letterman led the Blue Jays with 16 points. He was joined in double figures by Drew Cromer’s 12.
Up next for Camdenton (5-3) is a semifinal round matchup with No. 1 Catholic on Friday. Marshfield (3-7) faces Bolivar in the fifth-place bracket.
Gold Division Quarterfinal: Camdenton – 54, Marshfield – 51
Camdenton 15 08 15 16 — 54
Marshfield 09 16 13 13 — 51
Camdenton scoring: Paxton Delaurent – 12, Keegan Ford – 11, Kelton Virtue – 10, T.J. Anderson – 7, Brandon Pasley – 6, Luke Eveland – 6, Drake Miller – 2
Marshfield scoring: Triston Letterman – 16, Drew Cromer – 12, Brayden Peck – 8, Austin Porter – 7, Parker Dinwiddie – 7, Truett Gardner – 1