By Travis Smola
For three quarters, the Bulldogs were firmly in control of the Paw Paw Redskins in the MHSAA boys’ semifinal basketball game on home court.
Vicksburg had a 41-38 lead at the half and everything seemed to be going the way of the Bulldogs. The boys spread the ball around while being led in scoring by junior Trenton Lomason with 18 points. In the waning seconds of the third, the Bulldogs had a comfortable 11-point lead. “We wanted to just hold the ball and take the last shot,” Head Coach Rob Johnson said.
Instead, Paw Paw scored quickly scored six points in the span of about 40 seconds. The dramatic swing didn’t just put the Redskins back in the game, it completely shifted all the momentum Paw Paw’s way. Compounding problems for the Bulldogs, senior Deondre Lovell started cramping up, leaving Vicksburg without him for most of the fourth.
It didn’t take long for Paw Paw to take back the lead in the game and things quickly turned into yet another back-and-forth dogfight. But near the end of the game, it was the Redskins who were holding the narrow lead.
Senior Blake Rankin managed to sink a couple vital free throws with only seconds left, to cut the score to 76-73. But with just 1.2 seconds left, Vicksburg wasn’t able to get off a final desperate shot in time. After controlling Paw Paw for so much of the game, it was an especially frustrating way to end for both players and coaches.
“We didn’t follow the game plan from the bench to the floor,” Johnson said.
Next year’s team will have a dramatically different look with the loss of seniors Rankin, Deondre Lovell, Brenden Lovell, Caleb Kropp, Jonathan Eager and Adam Grabowski. At least one Bulldog will continue his basketball career at the next level. Deondre Lovell has signed on to bring his basketball skills to Madonna University next season.
While it wasn’t the finish players and coaches were hoping for, one can’t deny that this particular group of players has given the community a lot of memorable and highly entertaining games the past few seasons. The squad characterized itself all season for its scrappy play and often thrilling finishes to games.