Hesperia pulls out a 40-38 win over Holton in first round of Class C districts

By Justin Haggerty

MONTAGUE – The Hesperia boy’s basketball team had to start the district tournament without its 1,000-point career scorer, Traxton Gordon, on Monday night.LSJ Logo incert

But the Panthers made up for it with a balanced attack and pulled out a 40-38 victory over rival Holton in a Class C quarterfinal game at Montague High School.

The tense game was tied with 15 seconds to play, but Hesperia iced the win with two free throws by Dominick Varela down the stretch.

Hesperia now advances to Wednesday’s district semifinals to play Shelby, which has ended the Panthers’ season in districts two of the past three years.

Dominic Varela goes up for the key free throw for Hesperia. Photo/Leo Valdez Sr.

Dominic Varela goes up for the key free throw for Hesperia. Photo/Leo Valdez Sr.

Playing without Gordon, who was out of the game for unspecified reasons, Hesperia spread the scoring load around. No Panther scored in double figures, but eight of the nine players who dressed recorded at least a bucket.

Scott Peters, Nathan McKeown and Mark Workman led Hesperia with eight points apiece.

“I can’t say we really had one guy that outshined anyone else,” said Hesperia Athletic Director Joe Conkle, who coached the game for Hesperia. “I think the kids battled together.

“Tonight was just a team effort, it was a team game and they did the job well. We knew it was a challenge coming into the game. We had a very important player not playing, so we had to do some things right to come away with the win.”

Neither team shot very well in the beginning. Holton led 9-8 after one quarter and 18-15 at halftime.

Part of the problem for Holton was lack of ball movement on offense.

“We did a lot of standing, a lot of spectating,” Holton Coach Mike Fosburg said. “Unfortunately for us and our offense, when we stand it doesn’t help us at all. We can’t get into any flow.

“It’s hard for us to attack, it’s hard for us to do what we want to do offensively when we stand and watch.”

Shots began to fall for the Red Devils in the second half. They opened with a 6-0 run before Hesperia’s Workman hit a three-pointer to stop the Holton momentum.

“We usually don’t expect Mark to step out there and shoot a three-pointer but sometimes it just happens and we’ll take it,” Conkle said. “That was a big shot.”

Holton closed the gap to just one point after three quarters, 26-25.

Kevin Slowik took over the Red Devil offense at the start of the fourth quarter.

Slowik scored eight consecutive Holton points, including two 3-pointers, to give the Red Devils a 33-32 lead with 3:47 to play.

The teams exchanged baskets, then Holton’s Jake Tanner hit a dramatic triple with 1:08 left to make the score 38-36 Hesperia.

Tanner added a pair of free throws with 15 seconds left to tie the score, but Varela nailed two out of three at the line to secure the win.

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