BY MIKE RILEY
What had the look of an upset in the making in the first half, quickly turned into a blowout as Providence and New Washington ended the regular season with the Pioneers winning Friday over the Mustangs 58-18 at the Larkin Center.
Class 2A No. 3 Providence (17-3) quickly built on an 18-12 halftime lead as Dalton Duley hit a 3-pointer, followed by back-to-back 3’s by teammate Cory Cahalan.
Following a New Washington timeout, the Pioneers’ George Knott scored to make it 29-12. Dustin Cooper answered for the Mustangs, but that would end up being the only New Washington basket of the third quarter and only one of two field goals that the Mustangs made in the second half, shooting 2-of-12 from the floor.
“In some games, things just don’t go the way that you would like them to, and that describes our first half,” said Providence coach Louis Lefevre.
“We got nothing on the inside. We had one offensive rebound, and that was by a guard. We got nothing out of our big guys. New Washington did a good job taking things away from us. Nano (Grantz) hit some shots that kept us in the game. And then we didn’t play real smart at the end of the half.”
Lefevre was referring to a situation where Providence was leading 18-9 and working the ball for the final shot of the field half when it turned it over. The Mustangs’ Adan Diaz misfired on his desperation 3-point attempt, but was fouled.
With less than a second remaining on the clock, Diaz converted all three free throws to cut the lead to six.
“That was big,” Lefevre said. “Instead of going in at the half up by nine or 11, we’re up only six. At halftime, all I told them was not to panic, stay focused and keep playing defense. Then we came out and hit three bombs and that was pretty much the game.”
Being it was Senior Night, Lefevre decided to start the five Providence seniors — Grantz, Cahalan, Knott, Duley and Ryan Pickerrell. Grantz scored 14 points to lead the Pioneers. Duley and Pickerrell each finished with nine points.
New Washington had no one in double figures and was led by Tim Cochran with six points.
“Without watching the tape or looking at the stats, all I can say is that when you only score six points in a half, you’re not going to beat anybody,” said New Washington coach Jonathan May. “In the first half we were patient, we were tough with the ball and we limited our turnovers. In the second half, we played the exact opposite.
“We can only take away one or two things defensively. I can’t say that I’m disappointed in our half-court defense, but what killed us was the long rebounds and turnovers that led to easy transition baskets.”
Providence outrebounded New Washington 32-16 and turned the ball over six times, compared to 20 for the Mustangs.
Now each team must prepare for sectional play. New Washington (9-12) will not play until next Friday when it meets the winner of Borden-South Central in the Class A Borden Sectional semifinals. New Washington lost both regular-season games with the Class A No. 10 Braves and the Rebels.
“We’ll get back to practice,” May said. “Then we’ll figure out who we have to play and have three days to prepare.”
Providence may have a more difficult situation. The Pioneers must face Class 2A No. 10 Clarksville on Tuesday, one of the areas better teams in the first round of the Class 2A Crawford County Sectional. Providence owns two wins over the Generals this season — 38-36 in the championship game of the Silver Creek Holiday Tournament, then 60-51 in a regular-season matchup at Providence six days later.
“I wish we would have gotten a bye,” Lefevre said. “Beating a team three times in a season is hard. Two of the best teams I’ve ever coached did it, but none other.”