AXTELL — In what could only be described as a typical first game, Pleasanton held on for a 48-47 victory Thursday night at Axtell.
The Bulldogs, still bruised from the state championship football game, missed seven of eight free throws in the last minute but survived when Axtell’s Tyler Danburg didn’t connect on a 3-pointer from the top of the key as the buzzer sounded.
With the delayed start to the basketball season, the “dress rehearsal” for the jamboree game and a day of team photos, Pleasanton coach James Vetter felt the Bulldogs were taking the floor with about 3 1/2 practices under their belts.
“But I’d never trade that for the guys playing in the state football championship. That was awesome,” he said. “I definitely think it gave them confidence. They’ve come a long way. They know how to compete. They may not be the superior athletes all the time, but they don’t back down. They know how to compete.”
They battled through a seesaw first half where neither team led by more than four points. When Brady Klein hit a 3-pointer to give the Bulldogs the lead with 2:06 to play in the half, it would be the last time Axtell was on the top side of the score.
“We didn’t do enough dirty work early for the first three quarters to be in a good position,” Axtell coach Brent Hinrichs said. “It (playing from behind) is a struggle and they made the plays. They got some second-chance points and they got to the front of the rim.”
What the Bulldogs didn’t do was make free throws. They were 6 of 22 for the night, including the late drought.
“Free throws have been a bugaboo for the three years I’ve been a coach there, and we haven’t worked on that much this year,” Vetter said.
One free throw that Klein made gave Pleasanton a 47-40 lead with 3:11 to play.
Seth Eckel, who led all scorers with 17 points, hit the last free throw with 58 seconds left to make it 48-45.
Brennan Runge’s 3-pointer with 23.8 seconds left cut it to one and Axtell got the ball back eight seconds later after four missed free throws.
“We fought back. I liked it,” Hinrichs said. “I liked our guts and stuff toward the end. They kind of left the door open a little bit for us by msissing some foul shots, but we made some big shots down the stretch to get that thing within one and got a chance to win.”
Runge led the Wildcats with 16 points. Zach Hinrichs added 15 and Danburg finished with 10.
Klein had 13 points to join Eckel in double figures for the Bulldogs.
“We didn’t feel like we executed athletically very well,” Vetter said. “The kids who are seniors ... most of them have been starting for me for three years now. That was really to our benefit because they kind of know what our expectations are defensively and offensively. We didn’t execute very well tonight but at least they were kind of in the right places most of the time.”
Pleasanton 48, Axtell 47
Score by Quarters
Pleasanton (1-0)14 12 10 12 — 48
Axtell (0-1)13 11 8 15 — 47
AXTELL — Brennan Runge 16, Zach Hinrichs 15, Tyler Danburg 12, Nick Pearson 3, Gavin Carlson 1.
PLEASANTON — Seth Eckel 17, Brady Klein 13, Jakson Keaschall 6, Kessler Dixon 4, Tyce Westland 4, TJ Baillie 2, Treven Wendt 2.