NORTH HOLLYWOOD — The Providence High boys basketball team is a group in transition, a team searching for an identity.
That's fine if the calendar reads December.
Unfortunately for the Pioneers, the month is February, and time just might be running out.
“You can't go into the playoffs, expecting to get a playoff spot, playing bad,” said Providence Coach Ernest Baskerville. “You're supposed to be playing better down the stretch. We're not playing better. You're not supposed to hit these bumps in the road down the stretch.”
The Pioneers fell to Holy Martyrs, 57-42, on Thursday night at Oakwood High. The game was for third place in the Liberty League tournament, with the top three finishers gauntleted a playoff slot. Providence (9-17), which won the league title last season, now must hope for an at-large selection when pairings are released on Sunday.
The Pioneers were without star player and leading scorer Marcus LoVett Jr., who it was confirmed Wednesday will not return to the team this season for unspecified reasons. Point guard Jonathan Ly played Thursday on a bad knee, obviously hobbled, after missing Wednesday’s loss.
Baskerville was clearly frustrated by his team's effort against Holy Martyrs.
“There was no heart and desire, and that's not a team that I coach,” he said. “I don't coach for people to play in spurts. You don't play in spurts. You play basketball hard the whole 32 minutes. When the 32 minutes is over, then you can get your break. You don't take breaks during the game.”
The contest was tight midway through the third period after Providence's Christian Ware-Berry knocked down a pair of free throws to pull his team to within 30-27. Holy Martyrs then went on a 20-6 run to take a 50-33 lead midway trough the fourth period, putting the game out of reach.
“I think it's a lack of consistency,” Ware-Berry said. “We kind of get on a run offensively, then we die down a little bit in defense. We kind of lapsed in a couple of moments, and that just gives a team like Holy Martyrs those big runs to push the lead on us. We've just got to be more consistent.”
Ware-Berry finished with 24 points and eight rebounds. With LoVett sidelined, the junior is now his team's top offensive option.
“I thought he played well,” Baskerville said. “He made some mistakes. Everyone did. I try to remind him, don't try to shoulder too much. I hope that someone else is going to take some of those point onto their shoulders. He really tries. He wants to do it, but that's a difficult task to take on.”
Michael Chorlian scored 23 points for Holy Martyrs.
Providence suffered a big blow when it lost the services of Marcus LoVett Jr. for the season.
LoVett, one of the top sophomores in the country and the reigning All-Area Player of the Year, left the team last week and didn’t play for the Pioneers in the inaugural Liberty League Tournament, which began Tuesday.
Providence Athletic Director Andrew Bencze confirmed that LoVett is finished for the season and not because of an injury, but said he’s not at liberty to talk about the reason for the sophomore’s departure. Bencze did add, however, that LoVett is still enrolled at the school.
Providence was able to survive the first round of the tournament without LoVett, squeaking out an overtime victory Tuesday against Oakwood.
However, in the semifinals Wednesday against Buckley, the Pioneers had to also play without starting point guard Jonathan Ly, who suffered an injury against Oakwood.
Without two starters, the Pioneers were no match for the Griffins, as Providence suffered a 51-38 loss at Oakwood High.