Photo by Tamie Meck Paonia post Lane Clawson (25) blocks Bulldog Mason Oxford in Paonia’s 67-66 conference win over Hotchkiss. The two teams met again last night, Feb. 26, to determine which team advanced to the District 5 tournament in Paonia.The long-standing rivalry between Hotchkiss and Paonia has been at a fevered pitch the last two weeks. On Feb. 19, the two teams faced off on the basketball court for the third time this season, and for the first time, Paonia claimed the win, defeating Hotchkiss, 67-66.
"That had to be the hardest game I've played all year," said post Lane Clawson, who with three blocks and eight total rebounds was at the top of his game on defense.
Unlike their past two meetings, which Hotchkiss won by a combined 10 points, the Eagles had to deal with 6-foot-4 post Chris Allen, a first-year player who spent the early part of the season paying his dues on the junior varsity squad.
Allen was a force on both sides of the court, and scored eight points for the Bulldogs.
"We were aware that he was there," said Clawson. "Before the game we like to write goals about who we'd like to limit in the game. He and (point guard Taylor) Schreiner were two of the main ones. I think we did a pretty good job of shutting them down and keeping them limited pretty well."
Schreiner scored a team-high 18 for the Bulldogs.
River Panish managed a career high 14 points, including two treys down the stretch, and Mason Oxford had 11 for the Bulldogs.
Paonia led by six at the half, and Taylor Walters scored seven in the third to lift the Paonia lead to seven going into the final period.
Panish opened the fourth with the first of his threes, and Oxford added a point from the line to bring the Bulldogs to within three. Walters and point guard Josiah Spano turned on the heat for nine points, with Jason Sturgis adding one from the line.
Bulldog shooting guard Cody Bartlett fouled out, and Oxford was taken out with a bleeding cut to his head. Hotchkiss trailed 63-52, and coach Kyle Crowder called a timeout with 3:11 remaining.
Hotchkiss came back to score nine of the next 11 points. Oxford came back in the game, his head wrapped in a bandage, and took a steal to the net for two. Hotchkiss scored five unanswered points to trail by one. With eight seconds remaining, Clawson pulled down a defensive rebound to end the game.
Despite the two prior losses, Clawson said he was confident of a win going in to the game. "I told the team before the game, we can do it, we gotta do it, guys, so give it all you've got. And I put all I had on the court."
Walters scored a game-high 24 points for Paonia, and Spano added nine. Paonia forced nine turnovers on steals.
Clawson called the game the team's best effort since its one-point loss to undefeated Hayden on Jan. 19. The game was the closest the Tigers played all season. "We played the best against Hayden, but we didn't see (that level of play) again," said Clawson. "I think going into the district tournament, if we can come out and play just as hard as we did against Hayden, we should have no problem."
But Paonia had one hurdle to clear prior to the start of the District 5 tournament, which opens Friday at Paonia High School. They had to play the No. 5 team last night at Paonia.