Our Paxton boys played ball. In fact, it was the best basketball the little city has seen since the mid-seventies. That is, if you can call Paxton a city.
Most folks have never visited a place as small as Paxton, Florida. A town within spitting distance of Alabama. At the moment, there are 706 residents here — unless, God forbid, someone’s granny dies. And this year’s senior class isn’t big enough to fill up a few church vans.
Paxton is four miles wide, with a town-hall about the size of a Tom Thumb. Most of the people living here skate along the poverty threshold. And most of these hardworking folks don’t even know what that is exactly. Or care. At least not this week.
Because this week, their boys played white-hot basketball.
The Paxton Bobcats took the court in Lakeland, Florida, while half the town sat in the bleachers with hand painted signs.
These are the state championships. The singular biggest event some of these country kids will ever see — besides their own weddings. The boys were full of syrup-thick adrenaline. Each of them smiled big enough to see their teeth from the nosebleed section. They might as well have been in the NBA finals.
The first half: wiry Zach Varnum guided the Bobcats to a joyous lead. He’s liquid dynamite. There’s no doubt about it, this kid’s going places. Each time one of these athletes made a play, I understand the auditorium of mamas almost ripped the room apart — which is what mamas do.
But after halftime, the winds changed and everything went south. The Paxton boys clawed with everything they had. The other team clawed harder.
When the game was over, the boys sat disappointed, slumping their shoulders. But their mamas weren’t about to let them get away with such behavior. Because heroes don’t sulk. Besides, these champions have already made an entire city — no the entire county — proud.
The fact is, this is the 1A State Championship, and our rural Walton County boys were there, by God. They played their cotton-picking hearts out. And they’ll remember this blessed day forever. Nobody’s mama gives a cuss about the final score.
And neither do we.