Look at him now.
One year earlier, Tanner Dixon had one of the best seats in the house for Geneva’s rivalry game at Batavia. He was a reserve forward for the Vikings who seldom got into the game.
This season, when the teams met again Friday night, all eyes were focused quote often on the 6-foot-3 Dixon, who played a key role as he continues to write his own success story.
Count senior point guard Mick Lawrence among those impressed by Dixon.
“I bet it’s a great feeling for him now,” Lawrence said. “He was probably our best player (Friday night). He didn’t really do anything that was negative, just all positive stuff.”
Indeed, Dixon scored a game-high 15 points, with 10 coming in the second half, to keep the host Bulldogs at bay in Geneva’s 47-32 DuKane Conference victory.
“He really grinded it,” said Lawrence, who’s in his third varsity season as a starter. “He didn’t get the opportunity last year, but he’s playing a huge role for us every single game this season.”
It’s the kind of story a coach like Geneva’s Scott Hennig loves to tell.
“Tanner had a great offseason,” Hennig said. “He got in the weight room. He’s a program kid, been here for four years and has gotten a little quicker. He’s better off the bounce getting to the rim, and he can hit some threes.”
Dixon hit a big one in the third quarter.
Geneva (7-3, 3-1) took advantage of Batavia’s scoring drought in the first half that covered 5:42 to open a 21-9 lead on a pair of free throws by Dixon with 1:24 left in the second quarter.
That started, however, a 6:48 scoring drought for the Vikings that extended well into the third quarter, when Dixon drained a 3-pointer.
Batavia (3-7, 1-3) only managed to score six points, though, during that stretch. Dixon’s big basket pushed the margin to 24-15.
“We felt pretty good the whole time because we know how good our defense is,” Lawrence said. “Every team we play, we give struggles. We knew if we could do well on defense and get a few things to go on the offensive side, we’d be good.”
The emerging Dixon made sure of it.
“I didn’t play any real varsity minutes last year and the main thing was gaining strength and confidence,” Dixon said. “I got in the weight room and focused on my game.
“Once I could see I was getting better, it was a big confidence booster.”
Next came work to improve his shot.
“I had never shot much before,” Dixon said. “Being able to make shots, especially when I’m wide open, they can’t just sit on me down on the block.”
Lawrence finished with 12 points. Jimmy Rasmussen, also in his third season as a varsity starter, added 10. He scored seven in the second half.
“Tanner Dixon, again, was outstanding,” Hennig said. “We had that little lull and he hit the big three. I thought Mick controlled the game and Jimmy played a good floor game, especially when he came back in the second half after being in early foul trouble.
“I thought we were crisp and were able to execute. Batavia is always good defensively. I know they didn’t score it great (Friday night), but they’re always tough, bumping cutters and playing physical man-to-man.”
JP Chaney led the Bulldogs with eight points.
“We didn’t offensive rebound and help ourselves and we had trouble getting stops,” Batavia coach Jim Nazos said. “And for a team that had been averaging under 10 turnovers, we spiked to 15.
“We’ll get better.”
It was a big win, meanwhile, for Geneva’s seniors.
“This is the first time I’ve beaten Batavia as a varsity player, so it’s sweet in my head,” Lawrence said. “It was a great feeling at the end of the game and in the locker room.”