'He had no idea': Anderson crosses 1,000 point marker by surprise as Benson County powers past Saint John
Up five on the Woodchucks nearing the end of the game, Blayne Anderson was running the ball up the court on the offensive attack. It wasn't an abnormal sight. Anderson throughout the night with start off the drive under the Wildcats' basket and in most cases, cap it off it with a swish on the other end of the court.
After a few passes, senior John Fisher swung the ball from the top of the arc to Anderson, standing in between the right side corner and Fischer. As Anderson launched what would be his 30th point of the night, Wildcats head coach Dustin Paulson began to walk away from the play and towards the referee standing near the top of the Wildcats bench.
As Anderson's fourth 3-ball of the night fell, Paulson would exuberantly gesture for a timeout. Confused as to why the timeout was called, Anderson turned around and sat straight down on the bench. In the huddle, Anderson quickly told his team to keep working and to finish out the game. Then Paulson spoke.
"Congratulations," Paulson said.
"I got it?" Anderson said.
It wasn't something Anderson was keeping track of, but his teammates, coaches, and mom, who had a poster ready for after the game, knew was coming. Anderson's bucket from deep was the senior's 1000th career point, which was a surprise ending to the Senior Night celebrations in Leeds,
"When I hit the 3 I thought it was odd that he called the timeout," Anderson said. "It was great that it was a surprise and I'm just proud of my teammates that we came out and competed for the win."
However, Anderson wanted to put the celebrations on hold until the clock had hit zero. The win was the focus for him and the Wildcats at the time, as they would pick up some late momentum to pull away from Saint John. It was a team win that has been apart of the Wildcats' new energy after falling to Four Winds a little over a week ago.
After Saint John (3-5, 0-1) would go on a 13-2 run to take a slim lead late in the third quarter, Benson County (7-7, 1-4) would make a defensive switch up, boosting the Wildcats offensive game and powering them to a 65-58 win over the Woodchucks.
"We came out with some heart, emotion, and intensity, which is what we preached all before practice and the game today," Paulson said. "With it being Senior Night and Parent Night, emotions were running high, so it was a big moral victory for us. It builds our confidence and it was a great team win."
A lot of the Wildcats offense runs through Anderson, seeing him finish with 32 points on the night, however, he commended his opportunities to score through his teammates against Saint John and did what he could to give them the same scoring chances. Fischer also broke into double figures in scoring with 17 points, going 6-8 at the line.
"I love to pass the ball and I love my teammates, and they really stepped up," Anderson said. "I knew they were struggling to make shots, but I knew if I kept having confidence in them, they would step up and play well. A lot of scoring falls on me sometimes, but when they need to step up, they need to step up and I believe in them more than myself sometimes. It's awesome to get that team win."
Things were moving along pretty well for Benson County in the first half, with Anderson racking up 17 points by halftime, with Fischer and senior Cole Wentz providing support. The trend continued deep into the third quarter, seeing the Wildcats up by as many as 12. However, the Woodchucks found the 3-ball and shots began to drop.
An 11-0 run by Saint John would pull them within a point of the lead before a layup from Wentz would cut off the run. The Woodchucks shot down three 3-balls in the third quarter and kept pace in scoring early in the fourth. However, the Wildcats would make a switch to man-to-man defense and it would pay off. Not only was Benson County making the stops they needed, but Saint John was playing into the adjustment as the Wildcats would shoot 8-11 from the charity stripe in the fourth.
"They went on that run to take the lead and we came over our adversity," Paulson said. "We switched to man, came out, and never quit. We kept pushing forward, worked harder, and came out with the win."
The mentality to push harder and giving a complete effort the entire game was sparked after the seniors had called a meeting after losing to Four Winds by 61. Anderson felt like his effort was lacking and that senior leadership needed to be sparked a little more.
"We talked about how it starts with me and I had to have a better effort against Four Winds, and we had a tough game," Anderson said. "We had to start being leaders and the seniors had a team meeting and really bring the guys together. We figured that we could be a lot better than how we were playing and since then we've benefitted from bonding on and off the court. I love playing with these guys."
The bond between the Wildcats is something that has given the team an edge in taking the court. They may be outmatched in size or strength in games, but they believe their sense of team helps them in the end, especially for this senior group. While this may be Paulson's first year as the varsity head coach, he had coached this senior group when they first came into the Benson County program on the junior high team.
The reunion has been one both the seniors and Paulson have enjoyed, in and out of the game, as Paulson could be seen hanging out with his team at the girl's varsity game on Thursday. Anderson said in having Paulson return to the bench, represents the teams' growth as Wildcats.
"It really speaks to our continuity and how we've developed as players," Anderson said. "We were different back in eighth grade, but we were good back then, and we've had some struggles here and there, but it speaks to how we play together as a team. We came back to how we used to play as a team. It just took a little longer than we wanted."
Benson County has five games left on it schedule, two of which are district matchups. Picking up wins over New Rockford-Sheyenne (Feb. 2) and Dakota Prairie (Feb. 9) could move the Wildcats into the middle of the pack, seeding wise, for the upcoming district tournament.
"We want to build momentum off of this because we have a big game Tuesday," Paulson said. "We've lost a few district games, so we have to come out on Tuesday with confidence and strength like we did tonight."
There is still a lot of focus from the Wildcats to finish out strong, especially from Anderson, but at the same time, they're enjoying wins as well. For Anderson, while he may have still focused on winning when he hit the 1,000 point milestone, after the game, the emotions hit him. To him, it felt like a dream come true.
"I can't really truly put it into words what it's like to hit this milestone here," Anderson said. "It's a dream come true. To hit 1,000 points, at home, on Senior Night is just something you dream of as a kid."
Benson County 65, Saint John 58
Benson County - 14, 20, 9, 22 - 65
Saint John - 14, 11, 18, 15 - 58
Benson County (7-7, 1-4) -- Anderson 8 4-6 32, Fischer 4 6-8 17, Wentz 4 0-0 8, Bisbee 0 3-3 6, Tracy 1 0-0 2. Totals 17 13-17 65.
Saint John (3-5, 0-1) -- Dunn 1 6-9 20, J. Parisien 2 0-0 19, Baker 6 0-2 12, Monette 1 0-2 4, Z. Parisien 1 1-2 3. Totals 12 7-15 58.
3-pointers: Benson County 6 (Anderson 4, Bisbee 1, Fischer 1). Saint John 9 (J. Parisien 5, Dunn 4).