The Three Rivers boys basketball team went toe-to-toe with Edwardsburg for three quarters on Wednesday night, fighting to prolong its postseason life.
However, in the fourth quarter, the Eddies were the ones to deliver the deciding blows to claim a 52-41 victory over the Wildcats in the Class B district tournament. Edwardsburg meets Sturgis, which topped Vicksburg later in the night, Friday in the finals.
Heading into the fourth quarter, the teams were square at 35 points apiece when Edwardsburg managed to pull away in the fourth quarter, outscoring the Wildcats on their home floor 17-6.
“With about three or four [points] down we made a couple crucial mistakes getting the ball taken from the backside,” Three Rivers head coach Frelen Gowen said. “They went and scored out of one of them and we did the intentional foul that gave them a free throw and a possession. Now you’re chasing eight [points]. You can’t do that with Edwardsburg — too many shooters.”
Alex Cottingham and Adam Reed were leading contributors for Three Rivers on offense. Cottingham was 6-for-8 from the field for 14 points to go with his team high nine rebounds. Reed had 11 points, including a 3-for-4 performance from behind the three-point arc.
The Wildcats did struggle to get to the charity stripe. They only took seven free tries on the night while the Eddies visited the line 26 times, cashing in on 16 of those attempts.
Three Rivers also struggled to secure the ball offensively, leading to 21 turnovers.
Neither team shot well from the field. Edwardsburg connected on just 15 of 51 field goal attempts (29 percent), but six of them were from deep. The Wildcats were 16-for-42 (38 percent) from the field. Five of those buckets were from 3-point land.
“We knew fouls were going to be a problem because they’re a little taller, a little longer than us,” Gowen said. “They’re pretty athletic, pretty quick. For three quarters we pretty much hung with them. We got in and out of some foul trouble, and you put them on the free throw line that many times they’re going to beat you.”
Cam Cottingham chimed in on the offensive end of the floor with eight points while Elijah Hamilton had three points and both Jacob Ross and Johnel Stewart had a couple points each. Kyle Walczak sank one of his three free throw attempts for a point.
Alex Cottingham, who Gowen said made the All-Wolverine Conference First Team, Walczak, Kendall James, Karle (All-Wolverine honorable mention) and Connor Smith tossed their uniforms into the laundry bag for a final time inside the Wildcats’ locker room, many holding back tears before standing up and walking out.
“Everyone says to cherish every moment because it goes by quick, but you never know until it actually happens,” Cottingham said. “Once it happens … there are just no words right now. You’re speechless. You’ve grown up with it for 12 years and now to suddenly stop, it’s a very strange feeling.”
“In the next few weeks or so it will sink in,” Smith added. “It’s just kind of something you have to deal with.”
Gowen praised the group of seniors for pushing through a difficult 3-18 season.
“I asked the seniors to lead in two directions: Being a role model and how to come to practice every day and work hard, and how to act in a game whether you win or lose,” he explained. “You couldn’t ask for a better five.”