Dobbs Ferry junior Eric Paschall delivered a dominant performance Wednesday afternoon with 31 points, 12 rebounds, seven assists, three steals and three blocks in a 72-66 Class B semifinal win over North Salem to lead the Eagles into a third straight championship game.
Of course, his return to the championship game is noteworthy enough after a one-game suspension last season kept him from playing against Albertus Magnus. Paschall also has lifted from a midseason funk to play his best basketball in the playoffs.
With a big decision looming this offseason about whether to stay in Dobbs Ferry or reclassify at a prep school, this could be his last chance at redemption. Read on to find out what it means to finally have this chance:
WHITE PLAINS — The two best players on the floor were chest to chest, their closest confrontation all afternoon to that point. So when North Salem’s Umar Singh rose, Dobbs Ferry’s Eric Paschall leapt with him, extending a long arm up toward the sky.
The 6-foot-6 Paschall got a piece of the shot but the closest official ruled he got a piece of Singh, too. Immediately, Paschall’s mouth dropped in shock, but he caught himself and instead clapped, gesturing his approval for the call whether he agreed with it or not.
Even in the midst of arguably his best big-game performance as a high school star, the Dobbs Ferry junior couldn’t help but remember his lowest point and the lesson he learned.
“That’s what I thought about,” he said. “The refs are really strict in these games. I knew I had to control myself all game.”
The area’s “Mr. Basketball” played up to that honor Wednesday afternoon and his team continued to thrive because of his focus. That much was evident again in a thoroughly dominant performance that included 31 points, 12 rebounds, seven assists, three steals and three blocks.
“It’s just growth over the course of the season,” Dobbs Ferry coach Scott Patrillo said. “It’s understanding that a player at the level he’s at is not going to get every call and he has to push through that.”
Paschall’s personal development will remain one of the key storylines entering this weekend’s championship games. Although his team played in the last two finals, Paschall didn’t play a minute in either. He was a reserve in 2011 and was quite infamously forced to serve a one-game suspension in 2012 after being ejected from the semifinal against Blind Brook.
The ejection remains a vivid memory from last year’s Championship Week. Paschall was handed a technical for cursing and another for hanging on the rim. He and Patrillo objected to calls then and continue to, but that moment helped sharpen his focus.
“I can’t wait to play in this game,” he said.
Paschall couldn’t even attend last year’s final, a second straight loss to Albertus Magnus, instead holing up in his room at home. He has never watched it.
At times this season, Paschall and his team appeared mired in a similar funk. He missed two games in December due to a scheduling conflict with a family trip. Even when he played, questions lingered about whether he would stay at the school as a senior.
“He was very frustrated,” Juan Paschall said of his son. After one subpar performance, even the elder Paschall questioned his son’s effort.
A troubling loss to Edgemont in the regular season finale was the moment Paschall and his team finally began to realize their potential together. Afterward, a Division I college coach (Patrillo wouldn’t identify the school) critiqued Paschall’s game.
“For him to hear from an outside person who is at the highest level of college basketball what he needed to do to take it to the next level and what he needed to do to mature and grow his game, I think it was incredibly motivating,” Patrillo said.
Paschall has played his best basketball since, averaging 26.7 points, 13.7 rebounds and 4.0 blocks per game in the postseason, improving on all three numbers in the process.
Paschall’s father admitted there is “always discussion in my household” about whether his son will remain in Dobbs Ferry for his senior season. The family has considered staying, but it has already begun to explore several prep schools.
This might not be Paschall’s chance for redemption. It might be his only chance for a gold ball.
“I really want this bad,” he said. “My teammates want it, too. We can’t wait to play on Saturday.”