In likely the last state boys basketball final to be held at the Devaney Sports Center, Howells-Dodge captured the Class D-1 championship in its first year as a collaborative defeating Paxton 49-34 on Saturday night.
The Jaguars took their first lead, 22-18, with a 10-0 run to end the first half and continued to build the advantage after that, starting the third quarter on a 13-2 run and stretching the lead to 19 points.
“With the emotion of a state final, we couldn’t settle into anything offensively,” Howells-Dodge coach Cole Fischer said of the slow start. “We were forcing things instead of letting the game come to us. When we finally relaxed and settled in a little, we found open spots in their 1-3-1 zone.”
Mat Gooch recorded a double-double with 10 points and 16 rebounds in the win. He was also a presence on the defensive end, blocking five shots and altering many more.
“Right away we were nervous, but we knew there was a lot of time to play ball,” he said.
"(Gooch) finished off a phenomenal career," Coach Fischer added. "He plays above the rim and is so athletic. I’m so fortunate I had a chance to coach him.”
Luke Hegemann had a game-high 17 points for Howells-Dodge, and Ben Kuhen added nine points off the bench with three three-pointers.
Paxton jumped out to an early lead, 13-8, after the first quarter, but were outscored 32-10 in the second and third quarters.
“We started off like gangbusters but made too many mistakes late in the first half,” Paxton coach Jody Rhodes said. “This loss would be easier to swallow if we’d gotten beat playing like we did in the first five or six minutes of the game. We were missing shots that we should have been able to make in our sleep, and then they were getting two or three shots every possession.”
No Paxton scorers reached double figures, but Zachary Morland and Cody Corfield each had nine points in the loss.