Last-second shot denies Paw Paw a District title

Butch Hindenach -
	Paw Paw Finlay Tate shoots over a clawing Three Rivers Wildcat for  a three-point mark in the District championship at Dowagiac last week. The hot-handed sophomore helped give the Redskins an early lead with his long-distance shooting, scoring 13 of his 21 points in the first half.	Hot Shotz Photography/Matthew Day

    Dowagiac - Paw Paw’s boys basketball team reached the District tournament championship round for the fourth straight year Friday,  and for the fourth straight year, was denied the trophy hardware. This was the third time Three Rivers has been the road block. The result was a thrilling, yet frustrating, 41-39 defeat.
    From the opening jump, it was obvious the Wildcat coaching staff had decided they were not going to allow Paw Paw’s big man Karsen Barnhart to beat them, which put the burden on Paw Paw’s outside shooting game. The strategy worked, but just barely, as Redskin sophomore guards Finlay Tate and Mitchell Mason came out hitting from long distance and helped build an early 21-10 lead, despite Three Rivers’ double- and triple-teaming of Barnhart.  
    At halftime, the ’Skins held a 21-16 lead, with Tate responsible for 13 of his team’s points.  
    In quarter number three, the Wildcats cut the Paw Paw lead down to one, but a pair of two pointers by Mason kept the Redskins slightly ahead.  With two minutes remaining in the third quarter, the ’Cats finally managed their first lead of the night; and for the rest of the game, neither team held more than a three point margin. Down three with just over four minutes to go, Tate hit his fifth triple for Paw Paw, and an Andrew Vorce basket tied the score at 37. Levi Penning knotted it again at 39-all.
    With 41.6 still to play in regulation time and the Reds in possession of the ball, Coach Rick Mitchell called time out to play for the last shot.  The Redskins ran the clock down to 13 ticks, but a miscue gave the ball to the Wildcats and a long baseball pass resulted in what turned out to be the winning basket. Some confusion followed. It appeared to many that an official had called a foul on the score with about four seconds remaining.  But the officials ruled no foul, and declared the game to be over, even as players began to line up for the free toss. The referees quickly headed for the exit, leaving a great many in attendance perplexed as to what had just happened.  Whether the vacated seconds would have made a difference in the outcome is a question never to be answered.  What was evident was the Redskins had come up with a very good performance against a team that had beaten them by 12 points earlier in the season. Tate gained high point  honors for the night with 21. Mason added seven, and Barnhart, who has averaged just under 20 points per game, was held to a season low six points.  He still was able to do his normal strong job on the glass with 13 rebounds, and Vorce fought his way to seven boards. Prospects look good for the 2019-20 season with a large group of returnees, plus some quality talent on the JV team. At the same time, Redskins fans will be saying goodbye to seniors, Karsen Barnhart, Augi Sylvester, and Jedidiah Daspan.  


    The Redskins opened District tourney play last Wednesday with a 57-48 win over Edwardsburg by building an early lead with a little inside-out play. Finlay Tate and Mitchell Mason each hit twice from long range in the opening quarter, and Karsen Barnhart was his usual  force inside with seven points to give the Reds an 11 point lead going into the second period.  
    With Tate and Barnhart doing much of the offensive work, with help from Andrew Vorce, they built the margin up to 21 points before a third quarter 8-0 run by the Eddies took it down to a 13 point game.  
    In the final stanza of play, the Eddies began to connect from beyond the arc, cutting it to a four point margn; but some late clutch free shooting marksmanship by Tate and Barnhart put the game in the win column for the ’Skins. Barnhart was the leading scorer with 19, and he accumulated a like number of rebounds. This allowed him to move into second place all time at Paw Paw High School in rebounds in a season behind Ed Dow, and third all time in career rebounds behind Dow and Cornell Gordon.  
    Tate was on target much of the way with 17 points; Mason added 13, and Vorce, six.  

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