BURBANK — The Providence High boys’ basketball team battled in a tightly contested, see-saw affair with visiting St. Monica in a nonleague game on Saturday.
The Pioneers played to four tie scores and four lead changes in the contest, but never led in the second half and lost, 66-62, to a big and athletic Mariners squad that features a 7-foot-2 center.
“We were prepared for them,” first-year Pioneers Coach Chris Madigan said. “They ran a 2-2-1 press and a 2-3 zone with a 7-footer inside. We did a good job of breaking the press and beating the zone — so much so that they went away from it.”
Consecutive three-pointers from Dennis Ashley and Kavin Dotson late in the second quarter gave the Mariners a 28-26 lead. Providence played from behind for the entirety of the game, thereafter. It was an instrumental eight-minute frame, as St. Monica made seven of nine field goals in the second and forced five turnovers.
Josias Parker, Jonathan Ly and Kyle Lipton accounted for four straight possessions in the third quarter, culminating in a three-point basket that brought the Pioneers to within two at 42-40. A pair of free throws from Lipton minutes later knotted the game at 44.
St. Monica, though, never relinquished the lead in the second half, despite Providence cutting the deficit down to a single possession 11 times.
Parker’s three-pointer in the waning stages of the fourth quarter cut the Mariners’ lead to 65-62. Madigan called his team’s final timeout immediately after the three-pointer and called a play in hopes of St. Monica missing both of its free throws. Dotson made the second, however, and clinched the victory.
Parker led Providence with a team-high 20 points, including three from behind the arc.
“It was a tight game the whole way,” Madigan said. “In the first half, we gave up some transition points on a couple run-outs. We needed to be more careful with the ball, they’re an athletic team.”
With 2:45 remaining in the game, Providence’s Alec Kurkjian received a flagrant foul and was ejected after making a non-basketball play during a scramble for a loose ball, which was quickly called a jump-ball. The referees convened and said Kurkjian put Kaivon Simab in a headlock while the two were wrestling for the ball. The Mariners capitalized with four points on the ensuing possession, including the two free throws, extending a 53-50 lead to seven.
“I didn’t see a head lock,” said Madigan, when asked about the flagrant foul. “I saw three of our guys diving on the floor and going for a loose ball.”
“We still had time to play, we had our chances,” he said when asked if it had any effect on the outcome. “It never comes down to one play as far as I’m concerned.”
The Mariners had balanced scoring, led by Ashley’s 15. Simab and Spencer Gorman each scored 12 points, with Dotson adding nine and 7-foot-2 center Xiangyu Meng chipping in with eight.
Lipton scored 18 points for the Pioneers and Ly was the third in double figures with 11.