By Jason Wesseldyk
PAW PAW—Otsego sophomore Hannah Fitzpatrick hauled in seven rebounds during her team’s Division 2 girls basketball district final against site host Paw Paw on Friday, March 4.
None of those were bigger than the one she collected in the waning seconds of overtime.
With the score deadlocked at 58-58, Fitzpatrick collected the ball following a miss by senior Kaitlyn Payseno and made good on the putback with 3.3 seconds remaining to lift the Bulldogs to the 60-58 victory.
“On the game-winner, Hannah did some nice work to get inside and anticipate the rebound coming off and then getting the putback,” Otsego coach Tony Koshar said.
Fitzpatrick finished with 16 points, which was good for second on the team behind Payseno’s 24, which included an 11-of-12 effort from the line. She also had eight rebounds to lead Otsego.
“Kaitlyn was really composed the whole game,” Koshar said. “She kept us in it when others were struggling earlier.”
Senior Cali Miller added 14 points to give Otsego three double-digit scorers. That included a 3-pointer with 50 second left in overtime to cap an 8-0 scoring run and give the Bulldogs a 58-56 lead.
“Cali made some big plays and shots down the stretch in overtime, but also made some hustle plays,” Koshar said. “In the same possession before she hit the big 3, she flew into our bench to save the ball and keep the possession alive.”
While excited for all of his players, Koshar was particularly pleased for Payseno, Miller and his other seniors.
“I am really happy for our seniors,” he said. “It’s been well documented that they had some struggles as sophomores getting used to varsity level basketball and for them to get a championship their senior year is really a full circle moment.
“They also led this team and created a culture for winning basketball that is among the best in my 10 years of coaching the varsity level here. It has been one of the most enjoyable years of coaching and I owe it to them and their teammates.”
The game was back-and-forth throughout, with Otsego never leading by more than seven points and Paw Paw never leading my more than six. The Bulldogs led 22-19 at halftime and 37-32 entering the fourth quarter.
Paw Paw freshman Gracie Mitchell kept her team in the game by scoring 32 points as she connected on six triples and went 10-of-12 at the line.
Two of those free throws gave the Red Wolves a 49-47 lead with 47.3 points left in regulation. Payseno hit a turnaround jumper with nine seconds left to tie the score at 49-49 and force overtime.
In overtime, Otsego behind 56-50 before Fitzpatrick grabbed an offensive rebound at the 1:30 mark and scored on a putback. After a timeout, Cali Miller stole the inbounds pass under the basket and made the layup while getting fouled at the 1:28 mark. She hit the free throw to cut the lead to 56-55.
The Bulldogs forced a turnover at the other end, setting up Miller’s 3-pointer with 50 seconds left to give Otsego the 58-56 lead.
Paw Paw broke Otsego’s press and got a layup to tie it with 40 seconds left to make retie the score, but Fitzpatrick and the Bulldogs wouldn’t be denied.
Otsego was scheduled to play Edwardsburg in a regional semifinal on Tuesday, March 8. The winner of that game will play for a regional title against either Wayland or Dowagiac at 7 p.m. on Thursday, March 10, in Vicksburg.