PROVIDENCE HIGH — Minus two of its top players, the Providence High boys' basketball team was forced to scramble by adjusting its lineup.
With starting guards Marcus LoVett Jr. and Kyle Lipton out, the Pioneers were forced to play three freshmen. At times, the Pioneers’ inexperienced showed.
Providence, which won the tournament last season, dropped to 2-1 and will face Los Angeles Center for Enriched Studios (2-1) in the tournament’s third-place game at 6 p.m. today. Salesian (3-0) will meet St. Francis (3-0) in the title contest at 7:30 after St. Francis posted a 61-55 semifinal victory earlier.
“You can’t have 25 turnovers,” said Providence Coach Ernest Baskerville, who guided the Pioneers to the CIF Southern Section Division V-A championship contest last season. “We have some new guys in there learning the rotation who have virtually no varsity experience.
“We didn’t execute. We played horrible. You take half of those turnovers and it led to 24 points.”
LoVett, the reigning All-Area Boys’ Basketball Player of the Year, missed the game because of an illness. Lipton, a junior, is out with a knee injury he suffered a couple of weeks ago during a scrimmage against Burroughs. Baskerville said it’s doubtful LoVett, a sophomore who was named the division’s player of the year after scoring 1,035 points, will play Saturday and Lipton will be out for the bulk of the season while rehabilitating his knee.
Salesian, which held a 31-27 halftime lead, got a buzzer-beating three-pointer from Morris Ramos to end the third quarter and take a 50-42 advantage.
Providence’s Christian Ware-Berry, who finished with a game-high 20 points and 11 rebounds, said Ramos’ shot deflated the Pioneers.
“That was a key play,” said Ware-Berry, who picked up his fourth personal foul early in the third quarter and didn’t return until early in the fourth. “We are a young team and we have a lot of guys who are experiencing the type of pressure put on by a team like Salesian.
“This was a good test for us. Not being on the floor was tough because I wasn’t able to help my teammates out.”
Salesian’s Cristian Robles and Kristopher Chavez each registered 17 points. Chavez forced a turnover near midcourt and found Robles uncovered for an easy layup to give the Mustangs a 31-21 lead with 1:50 remaining in the second quarter.
Robles finished with 15 second-half points, making six shots. Chavez collected seven points in the second half.
Salesian’s Nicholas Perez picked off an errant Providence pass and turned it into a three-point play to extend Salesian’s advantage to 44-36 with 3:23 left in the third quarter.
Chavez stole a cross-court pass and scored on a layup to make it 56-42 with 6:32 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Providence, which won the Liberty League championship last season and appeared in the CIF-State Division V playoffs last season, could get no closer than 58-48 on a pair of free throws by Ware-Berry with 3:31 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Ware-Berry had 13 second-half points despite being in foul trouble.
“Not having a lot of experience, it puts extra pressure on guys like Christian,” Baskerville said.
Providence received 14 points from John Ly and 13 points and three steals from Brian Cabagnot, respectively. DJ Cabrerra contributed 10 rebounds for Providence, which got seven rebounds from Harrison Pyros.
Kevin Aguayo finished with 14 points, nine rebounds and three steals for the Mustangs, who got 10 rebounds from Jeremey Kelley.
Providence held a 15-13 lead after the first quarter. Cabagnot and Ly each had five first-quarter points.
Cabagnot tied the game at 9 with a short jump shot with 2:45 remaining. On Providence’s next possession, Ware-Berry made a three-pointer to give the Pioneers a 12-9 lead with 2:02 left.
Providence, which got five points apiece from Cabrerra and Max Saignavong, opened the tournament with pool-play victories against North Hollywood and Sherman Oaks Center for Enriched Studies. Salesian, which received nine points from Ramos, began with wins versus Oakwood and South Pasadena.