LAUREL — Perhaps Laurel boys basketball coach Pat Hansen described the best way to stop Billings Central junior Chrishon Dixon.
It's not really a player or play, but more of a facet of the game that is sometimes out of the control of Dixon and just part of the game.
"The only thing that stopped him was getting in foul trouble," Hansen said. "We had absolutely zero answer for him."
That was the case on Saturday night when one of the best rivalries in the state got underway, with the Rams topping the Locomotives 42-32 in front of a packed house in Laurel.
Everyone knows Dixon is talented, but the two-time all-state point guard has taken his level of play up a notch this year, dominating and asserting himself as a more all-around player and leader. Dixon finished the game with 24 points, but he scored all of Central's 13 fourth-quarter points. Dixon scored as many points as Laurel's entire team in the final period.
"Then you get into a game and get down, and he's going to the basket making those off-balance shots and then he's hitting threes from the arc," Hansen said. "He's scoring in multiple ways and then controlling the ball. It's either help off him and let them run time off the clock or get the ball to a shooter or stick to him and he's just going to have his way."
Dixon began the game hot, scoring nine points in the first quarter as Central grabbed a 16-9 lead. That contributed to a 13-0 run that put that Rams up by 13 in the second quarter.
"What got me there in the first three quarters was just attacking the basket and not being scared to go up and finish through contact," Dixon said. "I worked on playing through contact really hard because I know I'm going to get bumped down there and they weren't going to call anything. So I knew I just had to go up there, lay it on top of the backboard and let it go in.
"I love the atmosphere here. I always love coming in here and playing."
Laurel clawed its way back in a grind-out match in the second half. The Locomotives got as close as three in the final quarter, and got some good shooting from junior Gaje Leischner. Leischner finished with 12 points and three 3-pointers, two of which came in the second half.
"I can't say enough about what Chrishon Dixon can do on the floor. He takes a bunch of contact and still can finish through it," Central coach Jim Stergar said. "He did a great job of doing that and not even batting an eye. He rebounded the ball well and our team did a nice job there.
"He took the initiative. He was very aggressive offensively. He hit that three and he's looking for that when people go underneath screens. He's hitting shots over guys now and when people go under that screen. That kind of set the tone. We kind of spread the floor there at the end and let him go and if teams don't adjust to that and take it away then he's just going to have a heyday."