BURBANK — The Providence High boys' basketball squad was in the game for the entire contest against visiting Verbum Dei in a nonleague matchup that would determine if the Pioneers would stay above .500 for the season.
However, the Pioneers were unable to get over the hump Monday night, as the Eagles used their superior size inside to hold the home team off before pulling away at the free-throw line and earning a 49-39 win against Providence.
"It's an athletic team from Dei. They've got some size and physicality," first-year Providence Coach Chris Madigan said. "I thought our guys represented really well. We just need to make a few more shots."
Providence (9-9) trailed by one after the first quarter and that margin stayed the same after both the second and third periods. In the fourth, the Pioneers were as close as two points with 4:23 to go following a Brian Cabagnot steal and drive for a basket to make the score 39-37 in favor of Verbum Dei (6-8). But that would be as close as it would get.
"We made that one final charge and I thought we were going to get over the hump," Madigan said. "but we didn't quite do it."
Eagles Donevan Tillett, at 6-feet-4, 235 pounds, used his bulk underneath to get a traditional three-point play. The Pioneers then scored their last points of the contest with over three minutes to go on a Josias Parker put-back following an offensive rebound of his own miss.
After that, the other Eagles big man, Jabril Frazier (6-5) got an offensive rebound and hoop for the last of his 11 points to tie for team honors in the scoring department.
"That size kind of overwhelmed us a little bit, especially in the rebounding department," Madigan said. "Our guys were digging and trying to box out; it's just [Verbum Dei] is a big team.
"I've got no problem with our effort. I've got no problem with how our kids competed. Sometimes you just don't make all the shots."
The Eagles then hit five of six free throws to finish the game and set the final margin, which was the largest lead of the game for either team.
Providence, which came in ranked No. 15 in CIF Southern Section Division IV-A, was led on both sides of the floor by Parker. The senior guard had a game-high 12 points, which included all seven of his team's points in the third quarter, despite not scoring any until almost halfway through the frame, to match the third-quarter output of the visiting team.
"[Parker] always plays with everything he has got," Madigan said. "He is a stopper on the defensive side of the floor. He brings energy and competes his butt off the entire time he is out there."
Parker, who routinely attacked the rim early on offense, also dished out a team-high four assists to go along with his strong on-the-ball defense.
"That was kind of our plan from the beginning," Parker said of his early drives on offense. "We knew with that 2-2-1 press that they have if you attack from the beginning it should be lay-ups."
Providence's Michael Armstead was second on the Pioneers with nine points, all of which the junior forward scored before the break.
Sophomore Harrison Pyros returned to action Monday night against the Eagles after missing two months with a fractured finger. The sophomore scored six points, all in the second half.
"I'm glad to be back," Pyros said. "It's great to be with the guys again. It's been so frustrating sitting on the sidelines. I love being out there now."
Ethan Jacobsen and Jonathan Ly each contributed five points for the Pioneers, who, despite being in the Liberty League, play all nonleague opponents. This is the second year in boys' basketball that the member schools of the Liberty League voted to not play each other in the regular season in the name of competitive balance, but instead allow a tournament at the end of the season to decide the league champion.
"We played together as a team," Parker said. "They just outsized us."
The next nonleague opponent for Providence will be a struggling Rio Hondo Prep team on Wednesday. Next for Verbum Dei is a Santa Fe League contest against Bellarmine-Jefferson, who had several players in attendance at the start of Monday's contest to scout the competition.