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Feb. 11—BAXTER — Kael Johnston admitted after Baxter's basketball game with Colfax-Mingo that he had been struggling a bit with his shot.
But on a night when he was one of only a few boys' basketball players recognized for Senior Night, Johnston's shots were falling.
Baxter's boys' basketball team defeated Colfax-Mingo 72-50 on Monday night, but the Bolts couldn't create separation from the Tigerhawks until Johnston nailed back-to-back 3-pointers at the end of the first quarter.
"The light bulb is starting to come on," Baxter boys coach Zach Hasselbrink said about Johnston. "That's been great. He's a dynamic in the offense that we knew had the capabilities to do some things. He's hit some big shots the past few nights."
Johnston led a balanced attack for the Bolts against the Tigerhawks on Senior Night during non-conference action. He finished with 15 points with 11 of those coming in the first quarter.
Baxter freshman Treyton Travis (2) had seven points, six rebounds and three assists during the Bolts' home win over Colfax-Mingo on Monday. (Troy Hyde/Newton News)
"It felt really good. I was actually able to put some shots in," Johnston said. "I have been struggling recently, but the past few games have been better."
Johnston was one of the only regulars to start the game against Colfax-Mingo as Hasselbrink went heavy with seniors. He hit a 3-pointer early and then converted a layup to make it 7-4.
The Tigerhawks (3-16) stayed close thanks to Curtis Horras, who scored 10 of his 13 points in the first frame.
C-M trailed 17-16 before Johnston hit the back-to-back treys. Baxter led 24-16 after one, and the Tigerhawks never got closer than nine the rest of the game.
"We did a nice job I thought of containing (Cody) Damman and (Rory) Heer and kept them in check. They had other guys step up and make shots," Colfax-Mingo coach Phil Grant said.
The Bolts (13-7) pushed the lead to 29-16 early in the second after Johnston made a layup and Nate McMinamen buried a 3. A Jake Nichols runner made it a nine-point game a few possessions later, but C-M was held to just eight points in the second quarter.
"Give them some credit. They did some things early on that put us in tough situations," Hasselbrink said. "They got to the rim and got fouled and made free throws. We started to stop the dribble drive eventually and made them take the shots we wanted them to take."
Baxter ended the half on a 7-1 run to lead 42-24 at halftime.
"We just haven't shot the ball well the last few games. We are getting good looks but just aren't knocking them down," Grant said.
Baxter junior Rory Heer and Colfax-Mingo senior A.J. Gibson fight for rebounding position in their non-conference game on Monday night. (Troy Hyde/Newton News)
Both teams caught fire in the third as Baxter outscored Colfax-Mingo 22-16. Zach Steenhoek scored a game-high 17 points for the Tigerhawks and seven came early in the third.
The Bolts though pulled further ahead when they hit three consecutive 3s — one from Cody Damman and two from Rory Heer.
Baxter shot 46 percent from the floor and made 9-of-24 from 3-point range. Heer's second trey made it 57-33. It was 64-40 after three.
"We did a good job of swinging the ball around and finding the open guy. We also made open shots," Johnston said.
With the game out of reach, the highlight of the fourth quarter was seldom-used Baxter senior Jacob Bogle scoring a basket inside. Sophomore Trey Wesselink also made a layup to complete the scoring.
Hasselbrink hopes the Bolts' offense continues to trend in the right direction as the postseason nears. He knows the defense will probably show up most nights.
The 72 points scored were the second-most Baxter has put up this season. The defense is allowing just less than 46 points per game.
"When we hit our 3s, we usually put a pretty good number on the scoreboard," Hasselbrink said. "We don't make 3s every night so that's why we need to continue to bring the energy on defense.
"We want to make sure the defense is always there. It should keep us in games."
Damman and Carson Scroggins joined Johnston in double-figures with 11 each. Scroggins grabbed seven rebounds and Damman dished out three assists.
McMinamen added nine points and six boards, Treyton Travis chipped in seven points, six rebounds and three assists and Trice Clapper put in six points and pulled down three boards. Ben Richardson grabbed three rebounds.
Horras, who is just a freshman, joined Steenhoek in double-figures with 13 points, six rebounds and three assists to lead the Tigerhawks.
"He has a good knack for the game. It's been encouraging watching him develop and grow this season," Grant said of Horras.
Nichols had nine points, 16 rebounds and three steals, Cole Bracewell tallied five points and five steals, Cael Bracewell scored four points and Carter Gibson grabbed four rebounds.
The Tigerhawks shot 27 percent from the floor and hit just 4-of-22 from 3-point range but out-rebounded the Bolts 44-35.
The challenge for Grant during the second half of the season is allowing his four seniors to finish their careers in a positive way while also making sure a freshmen class that includes five players also gets important court time to help with future seasons.
"We want to give young guys an opportunity because the freshmen class is going to have a big part of this program moving forward," Grant said. "We don't have a lot of sophomores and juniors out. The team is over half freshmen right now. We want to get them some exposure now."
Notes: Baxter's starting lineup included seniors Johnston, Andrew Klemme, Josh Bogle and Jacob Bogle. ... The Bolts have won two in a row after losing two in a row. ... The Tigerhawks have lost six straight games.
Colfax-Mingo senior Jake Nichols (32) had nine points and 16 rebounds in the loss to Baxter on Monday night. (Troy Hyde/Newton News)