Paw Paw drops three close battles

Butch Hindenach •
Paw Paw big man Karsen Barnhart powers up for two of his 36 points against South Haven Friday night.  The Redskins and the Rams battled toe-to-toe all night long, ending up in overtime where the last basket wins. It belonged to South Haven.   Hot Shotz Photography/Matthew Day

   PAW PAW - The Paw Paw boys basketball team broke out of the polar vortex to host a weekend of hot Wolverine Conference basketball.
   In a distinct change from their first meeting this season, the Redskins and the South Haven Rams played a well-behaved, well-executed, and very exciting game of hoops Friday evening. The result was a 70-67 South Haven win in overtime on a pair of scores in the last 28 seconds.  
   An earlier contest this season between the two teams was ended before halftime after an altercation between a pair of players spread into the crowd. 
   This game was about quality basketball and spirited student sections who both behaved with a great deal of spirit and intensity. In fact, during the warm-ups, Rams players and their cheering section wore Michigan State green garb perhaps to intimidate Paw Paw senior  Karsen Barnhart, a University of Michigan football recruit. 
   If this was the intent, it did not work. Barnhart, playing like a man on a mission, scored a career-high 36 points, and pulled down 20 rebounds. Only three players in Paw Paw history have managed more points than this in a game. 
   The Redskins came out firing from long distance with Finlay Tate hitting a pair of triples and Mitchell Mason and Levi Penning  hitting treys of their own from beyond the arc. This made the  tally 18-10 in favor of the Redskins after the first eight minutes of action. 
   Paw Paw’s guards began to get the ball inside to Barhhart from that point, and he proved unstoppable most of the rest of the night, scoring 10 in both the second and third periods, seven in the fourth, and another five in the overtime period.
   Paw Paw maintained a lead around double digits until a late third quarter rally gave the Rams their first lead of the night, 46-45, just 30 seconds before the buzzer. The Rams built a six-point margin until a pair of scores by Andrew Vorce  and another Tate triple  gave the Redskins a one-point lead with a minute to go in regulation. The Rams then went ahead by two, but a late score by Barnhart pushed the teams into overtime.
   Four consecutive Redskins turnovers to start the extra segment put them down by four, but two more Barnhart goals knotted the score again. A Barnhart free throw put the home team back up by one with 28 seconds left on the clock, but a Ram basket and free toss turned out to be the difference as a last-second long three by the Reds failed.
   Of Barnhart's total, 14 were two point baskets. The rest of the Paw Paw team recorded just two scores inside the arc for the evening. Tate ended with 15 points from five three-point baskets; Mason added seven tallies. Coach Rick Mitchell’s guards did a good job of getting the ball inside, with Mason ending with five assists, and Tate, four.


   On Saturday afternoon, playing their second game in about 20 hours, Mitchell may have been hoping for an easy contest after the wild overtime game the night before. But his Redskins’ meeting with the Dowagiac Chieftains looked more like a horse race with a photo finish, as a last-second field goal tripped up the home team once again for a 53-51 Dowagiac win.  
   Threes by Tate and Mason opened the game as the Red and White ran off to an early 9-2 lead. Barnhart, Vorce and Penning also scored. The margin stood at 16-4 after one period of play, and Barnhart and Mason extended the Paw Paw lead to 21-4 early in the second stanza. Barnhart, as usual, was facing a great deal of double teaming and holding of his jersey, which did not seem to bother those officiating the game. The same strategy had worked last year for the Chiefs in their tournament final victory over the Redskins. The Chieftans rallied to get to nine points down when the teams took their break.
   Until midway through quarter number three, the visitors had a great deal of trouble putting the ball inside the hoop, and when Barnhart and Tate scored to make it 40-28, Paw Paw appeared have the game pretty much under control. 
   After that, the Chiefs began to warm up, cutting the lead to seven for the final eight minutes of play. Barnhart took over the scoring load for the Redskins in the final minutes putting all nine of his team’s points on the board; but the suddenly hot shooting Chieftains kept connecting, and finally took their first lead of the night with 1:41 still to play. A Barnhart basket tied it again.
   With under one minute left, it appeared another overtime game might be in the offing, but  a successful Dowagiac jump shot two seconds before the final buzzer ended the game. 
   Barnhart finished with 24 points. Tate and Mason each contributed nine, with all of their points coming from beyond the arc. Vorce added four tallies, Penning, three, and Kayden McClish, two. 
   Barnhart also muscled his way to 13  boards and took a key late charge. Tate had four thefts of the ball, and Mason, two. 
   One key statistic shows Dowagiac shot 17 free throws and converted 12 of them, while the Redskins attempted only one charity toss during the first three periods. They hit just two out of eight for the night.


   At Three Rivers Tuesday evening, the Paw Paw boys put up another good fight, but the game ended in their fifth straight loss, 77-65, to the Three Rivers Wildcats. The Redskins jumped out to an early 11-4 lead, and held a five point advantage after one period of play, thanks to the offense of Karsen Barnhart and Finlay Tate.
   The Wildcats had a productive second stanza, taking a six point lead at the break. Clayton Bretch, the second  transfer from Lawton to debut in the last two weeks, saw his first action as a Redskin, and drained a trey on his first shot attempt of the season.    
   The ’Cats built their margin to double figures after play resumed until Redskin Mitchell Mason connected from downtown with three triples in just over a minute to cut the TR lead to eight with four minutes yet to play. 
   After Barnhart had put down 22 points in the first three quarters, the Redskins were unable to get the ball inside to him at all in the final frame. Tate kept it close with a three point goal and an old fashioned three point play, back- to-back.  But then the speed of the small Wildcat team, which had made it self felt on occasion throughout the night, took over. In less than two minutes, they beat the Redskin defense back with full court passes for lay-ups on four consecutive possessions  to put the game in the win column.   
   Paw Paw had a three-man offense with Barnhart’s 22, Tate’s 18, and Mason’s 17. Barnhart did an excellent job on the glass with 16 rebounds; Andrew Vorce added six. 

The Courier-Leader & Paw Paw Flashes

The Courier-Leader & Paw Paw Flashes
32280 E. Red Arrow Hwy. • P.O. Box 129
Paw Paw, MI 49079
(269) 657-5080

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