If Camdenton senior Paxton DeLaurent has already played his final game as a Laker, he certainly could not have asked for a better finale.

If Camdenton senior Paxton DeLaurent has already played his final game as a Laker, he certainly could not have asked for a better finale.

Learning of a stress fracture in one of his legs that lingered from the final football game of the season, the last time the senior suited up for the Lakers on the basketball court was an Ozark Conference game against Rolla on February 4. Knowing he needed to knock down 24 points to reach the career milestone of 1,000 points, DeLaurent not only reached that mark by the third quarter but also hit a game-winning 3-pointer in a 67-64 win over the Bulldogs.

“It still kind of gave me chills. It was like out of a storybook,” recalled the senior who led his team with 40 points on the night and scored 17 of them in the first half. “I wanted to end on a win if this was my last game. I did not want to go out with a loss so I was trying to do everything I could, the guys were giving me the ball and we were playing great team defense.”

Speaking of defense, the “storybook” ending almost never was. With 3.9 seconds left on the clock, DeLaurent actually threw the ball out of bounds setting up Rolla for the potential final shot. However, the Bulldogs coughed the ball up right back throwing the ball out of bounds as well and the senior did not disappoint with a second chance. On the ensuing play, he found fellow senior Brandon Pasley in stride and Pasley returned the ball to DeLaurent to launch the game-winner.

“It took me back to my sophomore year, really. In our jamboree we called this play ‘Villanova,’” DeLaurent said of a play that led to the Wildcats winning the 2016 NCAA National Championship. “It was how they won the national championship. Brandon dribbled up the court, pitched it back to me and I hit the ‘3’ as the buzzer went. To end the game with 40 points, 1,000 (career points) and the game winner was about as awesome as it can go.”

And DeLaurent did not necessarily feel good about the shot as it left his hands.

“That was probably one of the few times where I took a last-second shot and did not have time to look at the clock before because I was just throwing it to him and someone even told me that was the fastest I ever ran,” DeLaurent remarked. “I was going up the court to make sure I had time and did not really think about it. When I shot it I honestly did not think it was going to go in because it was a pretty flat shot and when it went in I was so ecstatic.”

It is a shot any kid dreams about and Camdenton coach Craig Campbell said it just speaks to the competitive nature of the 6-foot-5 senior. The Lakers are hoping DeLaurent can return for a potential district semifinal game on Monday. Camdenton will take on host Capital City in the first round of the Class 4 District 10 Tournament on Saturday at 3:30 p.m.

“He is one of the most competitive kids I’ve been around. They did not really want him to play that game, but he prepared and felt like he needed to play one more because he prepared with the team,” the coach noted. “He kept playing the way he had been playing the whole game and that is how he ended up with 40 and in position to hit the game winner.

“We had a couple situations where it should not have been that close, but that is just part of it and why you play the game. He had a good game and is hoping he can get back and help us try to do something.”

For Campbell, nailing the game winner also speaks to how much the senior has evolved from the time he met DeLaurent his sophomore season and how he was able to reach 1,000 in the first place.

“He has never been one to stray away from taking a shot. It is the saying of ‘never having a bad look,’” the coach said. “He is one of those guys that always feels like whenever he shoots it, it is going in. How he has matured in his three years I’ve been here as far as on the basketball court, he would not have been able to get there (1,000 points) because the shots he was taking early on his career compared to now were not in his repertoire even though he thought they were. Moving past that, maturing, understanding and letting the game come to him a little bit more allowed him to get more points and be more consistent scoring.”

Like any basketball player, DeLaurent enjoys the opportunity to score and also noted that the game requires just as much effort on defense. Reaching 1,000 points required nothing less than that consistency and DeLaurent also pointed out that the backboard was a “friend” and “is there for a reason.”

“To score 1,000 you either have to be really good or probably have an opportunity like I did where I got to play at a younger age,” the senior explained. “I was playing my freshman year and started every game my sophomore year. I had lots of opportunities to score 1,000 so it was pretty consistent. I think I only scored 15 points a game each year, but from sophomore to senior year that is pretty consistent and is going to get you to that total.”

If the game against Rolla was the curtain call, and in fact the final time DeLaurent ever plays a sport for Camdenton considering he does not play in the spring, he has undoubtedly enjoyed the journey. He described Camdenton basketball the past four years as a program with lots of “ups and downs” and of course, the most notable “up” being last season’s district championship run for the program’s first district title in 37 years.

“Winning the district title last year was a really awesome feeling,” the senior recalled. “A lot of those seniors before the year started were like, ‘We are going to do something we haven’t done in a while.’ They kept telling me that… I think Coach Campbell has done a really good job with changing the atmosphere and bringing a winning culture to Camdenton basketball. The last time we won 17 games had to be a while.”

Knowing he would have to miss some time after the Rolla game, the senior started in thinking in terms of the game potentially being his final one before it started.

“That could have been it, the last time I ever suit up at Camdenton. I was getting in my feels, sad before the game and it was kind of like my Senior Night,” DeLaurent said. “The doctor said when it happened it would probably be a month… If I am a quick healer I’ll probably get back. If it is healed I am going to play, but if it is not I am not going to risk it.”

However things play out Saturday, Campbell credited DeLaurent and the group buying in last year to have the success the team did and he also noted that the senior’s lasting impact and legacy will be defined by much more than reaching 1,000 career points.

“His impact will be long felt just because of how he has been an influence on some of these incoming freshmen, sophomores and juniors. Being the ‘Big Brother’ role and a mentor to them,” the coach stated as DeLaurent was signing his letter of intent to play quarterback for Missouri State. “They look up to him. You could tell just by the number of kids out here for his signing. It is one of those things that will be a lasting impact more than what he was able to do on the court, I think.”