Two more close ones slip away from Paw Paw

Butch Hindenach •
Andrew Harris was strong inside for Paw Paw against Portage Northern Tuesday night. The senior hauled in 10 rebounds for the Redskins, who dominated the first three quarters of the low-scoring contest, only to suffer a rash of errors in the fourth and lose, 39-35.  Hot Shotz Photography/Matthew Day

   PAW PAW - Portage Northern’s basketball team came to Paw Paw Tuesday for a non-conference encounter with the Redskins. The game was not a high-scoring classic - both teams hovered around 25 percent shooting from the floor, and about 50 percent from the free throw line.  
   Paw Paw dominated the game for three quarters; then, for the second time in two weeks, the final period proved to be disaster. The end result was a 39-35 victory for the Huskies. 
   Quarter number one was the Finlay Tate show as he scored all 11 Paw Paw points compared to just five for the visitors.  In the next stanza, 6-9 Austin Johnson came off the Paw Paw bench with a pair of quick baskets. With more help from Tate, the Redskins went on a 13-point run that made the score a seemingly comfortable, though meager, 22-8 halftime advantage. 
   The momentum remained with Paw Paw after the resumption of play. Andrew Harris joined the point production, and along with a pretty slam dunk by Ross Vaickus, the score was 29-15 with just eight minutes to go for what appeared to be a Redskin win.
   But just like the final minutes of the Otsego game two weeks prior, the Redskins faltered. The Huskies came out with a much more determined defensive effort and created chaos and turnovers for the home team -- a very unusual 14 turnovers in the fourth quarter. The Huskies also got their fast break going, beating the Redskins back for some easy lay-ups. The visitors went on a 12-point streak to take a one-point lead with under three minutes remaining.
   A pair of Tate charity tosses gave Paw Paw back a one point lead; but the home team was unable to score even one field goal in the period, and Tate’s six free throws were all of their offensive production.
   The game was tied 33-all with under a minute remaining as the Huskies attempted to play for the final shot. They misfired on a one-and-one opportunity. Tate recaptured the lead for Paw Paw. But after that, the Huskies marched to the line and converted their opportunities to settle the  issue. After managing only 15 points over the first three quarters, they had outscored Paw Paw, 24-6, in the final.
   Tate was nearly all of the Redskins offense with 24 points. Andrew Harris added five, and Johnson, four. Harris and Vaickus each pulled down 10 rebounds, and Vaickus swatted away five Huskie shot attempts.


   Friday, at Plainwell, the host Trojans defeated the Paw Paw Redskins in a close basketball encounter, 57-50.  This has been a common occurrence this year, Paw Paw on the losing side of close games. In a dozen contests so far, seven have been settled by seven points or less, with the Redskins capturing just two of them.
   This game was close all the way with Paw Paw hitting just one of their last eight shots of the night to come home with a defeat.    
   To begin with, Clayton Bretch canned a triple for Paw Paw just seconds in, as the first quarter proved to be pretty much a trading of the lead. Finlay Tate and Ross Vaickus led the scoring, as Tate spearheaded a 12-0 run with six straight tallies to take a 20-17 first quarter lead. Andrew Harris made it a five point lead in the second stanza, and four Tate free throws in the final minute gave the home team a two point lead halfway through the contest. 
   Mitchell Mason took over with the resumption of play with nine points in less than three minutes on a pair of triples plus an old fashioned three point play. Vaickus added a jumper late in the third period; but once again the Redskins trailed by two going into the final quarter of play. 
   The Trojans built a seven point margin with five minutes to play, but  Mason found the bottom of the net twice and Vaickus once to make it a 54-50 game with 1:30 on the game clock. However, Redskin misfires at the end settled the issue.  Being outshot overall by 10 percentage points and losing the rebound battle by 10 were both harmful to the Redskins’ cause.   
   Mason had 18 points to lead his team; Tate finished with 12, and Vaickus, eight. Ross “The Rejector” Vaickus defended around the hoop by swatting away seven Trojan shot attempts. Leading the defensive effort or Paw Paw were Levi Penning, Bretch, and Harris. 
   The Redskins now stand at 5-7 on the season with  tough road games ahead, including at Otsego and South Haven, and another meeting with Dowagiac in the Redskins’ gym.

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