BURBANK — The Providence High boys’ basketball team showed resiliency and prevailed in a see-saw affair with Salesian and will advance to the championship game of its host tournament, the 25th Annual Providence Paul Sutton Tip-Off Classic.
The Pioneers overcame two separate nine-point deficits — one in the second quarter and the other in a thrilling fourth quarter — that saw Providence feed off the home crowd to claw back and seal a 54-53 victory with tenacious defense on the game’s final possession.
“We got our head in it and never gave up,” said Parker, whose field goal with less than two minutes remaining gave Providence a lead it wouldn’t relinquish at 52-50. “We kept fighting and kept battling back.”
Parker’s lay-up inside, which was set up nicely by Brian Cabagnot on a set play, was the seventh and final lead change in the contest. Cabignot came up big in the fourth quarter, scoring seven points in the frame.
Salesian dominated inside, most noticeably in the fourth quarter, and was led by Kevin Scott, who put in seven of the team’s 10 fourth-quarter points. The 6-foot-6 junior was the focal point of the Mustangs offense throughout the second half and almost single-handedly willed the team to victory.
“We couldn’t really stop them,” Pioneers first-year Coach Chris Madigan said. “We got lucky a couple times. All we could do is get some bodies down there and have a lot of hands swiping, hoping to come away with the ball.”
Providence (2-0) struggled early, particularly with Salesian’s press in the second quarter, and trailed, 20-11.
Perhaps it didn’t serve as a catalyst, but a technical foul issued to Salesian’s Mario Lopez was soon followed by a 10-0 Pioneers run that gave them a 21-20 advantage and momentum going into halftime.
“I don’t think it had any effect,” said Madigan of the technical. “What did ignite us was hitting open shots.”
The Pioneers made five field goals in the third quarter, but three came via the long ball. The Mustangs ended the quarter strong, however, and extended their lead to seven at 43-36 going into the fourth.
Parker found Cabagnot in the corner for a clutch three-pointer in the early stages of the final eight-minute period. On the ensuing offensive possession, Parker got in the act with his second from behind the arc to cut the Mustangs down to three at 45-42.
Scott did his best to answer Providence, scoring all of Salesian’s points until there were 49 seconds remaining and Lopez completed a three-point play to bring the Mustangs within one point.
After Providence failed to score on its end, Salesian called a timeout with 25.4 seconds left in the game and drew up a play for Scott to receive the ball in the paint and go to work. Providence, however, blocked off the passing lanes and forced the Mustangs into a makable 12 footer that missed short.
“They are a very good, physical team,” Madigan said. “I really don’t know how we pulled this one out, but I’ll take it. The kids are surprising me each day. They compete and lay it all out there.”
The Pioneers have a quick turnaround before going up against a big and athletic Chatsworth squad.
“We just need to play as a team,” Parker said. “We need to play as one unit, flow on offense and let it lead to our defense.”