Paw Paw eliminates Eddies

Published 8:41 am Friday, March 9, 2018

THREE RIVERS — Few high school basketball teams this season have found a way to stop Paw Paw senior standout Luke Tolliver.

Add the Edwardsburg boys basketball team to that list.

The 6-foot-3 Tolliver scored an eye-popping 42 points Wednesday night to lead Paw Paw to a 63-50 Class B district semifinal victory over the Eddies. Tolliver drained six 3-point shots and converted 17 of his 18 attempts from the free throw line.

“That was a quiet 42,” said Paw Paw coach Rick Mitchell about Tolliver’s performance. “He’s been doing it all year. He had five or six games over 40 this year. He’s just a scorer. He’s got some weaknesses and he knows what he needs to work on, but he’s still young. In a year or so, he’ll get stronger, but he’s a shooter. You can’t leave him open.”

Edwardsburg offset Tolliver’s first two triples during the first quarter with 3-point buckets by junior Chase Sager and sophomore Mac Gaideski, as the two teams battled to a 10-10 deadlock through the opening eight minutes.

Trailing by as many as six points during the closing stages of the second quarter, Edwardsburg rallied down the stretch to trail 29-27 at halftime, despite 10 second-quarter points by Tolliver.

A 3-point bomb by junior Tre Harvey cut Paw Paw’s lead to 38-37 midway through the third quarter, but Tolliver scored his team’s final nine points of the stanza to push his team to a 49-41 lead heading into the final quarter.

Leading by 10 points near the midway point of the fourth quarter, Paw Paw played an effective game of keep away for the final four minutes of the contest and made eight free throws to apply the finishing touches.

“They play as hard as they possibly can, and that’s all we ever ask,” said Edwardsburg coach Steve Wright about his youth-laden team. “We just needed a few shots to fall, especially late. I think we got tired, because we had to play so hard to be able to stay with them. I was really proud of them and I think they did just about as good as they could do on Tolliver. When he got open, he hit (shots).”

Wright lauded the defensive effort against Tolliver by Gaideski, who stands a full six inches taller than the Paw Paw standout.

“The thing about Mac is that he’s gritty and he likes the challenge of playing a guy who has a few inches on him,” Wright said. “He gave him everything he could, and really everyone who guarded Tolliver gave everything they could.”

Sophomore Colby Sidenbender led the Eddies with 10 points, while Harvey and Gaideski each chipped in with nine points.

Edwardsburg shot 37.2 percent from the field (19-of-51) and committed just 11 turnovers.

Paw Paw shot 42.5 percent afield (17-of-40) and outrebounded the Eddies by a 34-27 margin. Junior Karsen Barnhart pulled down a game-high 10 rebounds for Paw Paw.

Paw Paw will face Dowagiac for the district championship at 7 p.m. Friday . The Chieftains defeated host Three Rivers, 61-60, in the other semifinal.