By MATTHEW CRESS
Even on opposite sides of the bracket, it’s tough to keep Clarksville and Providence apart.
The two Clarksville teams — each facing stiff tests in their opening games — advanced to the semifinals of the Class 2A Paoli Sectional on Tuesday night in similar fashions. The Pioneers opened the evening by coming to life in the second half, overcoming a one-point second quarter and a halftime deficit to cruise past tournament host Paoli 53-43. Defending sectional champion Clarksville was equally impressive in the night’s second game, nearly leading from wire-to-wire in a 68-55 victory over Crawford County.
Both teams will be favored in their semifinal matchups on Friday night, with Providence advancing to play Henryville (3-17). The Generals will meet Eastern (5-15) for the right to advance to the finals.
Clarksville has beaten Providence twice this season, winning a narrow 49-46 decision on Dec. 27, and posting a 41-32 victory on Jan. 10.
PROVIDENCE 53, PAOLI 43
After suffering through a second quarter in which it managed only a single point and went 1-of-7 from the foul line, the Pioneers (14-6) went into intermission down 21-17 to the host Rams, who appeared ready to roll away and end Providence’s season.
Whatever happened in the Pioneer locker room is anyone’s guess, but a different team Pioneer emerged to start the third quarter.
“I just said to forget whatever happened,” said Pioneer coach Lou Lefevre. “The players decided to play really hard, and they got the benefits of it.”
A sequence early in the third quarter proved to be a preview of the rest of the contest, as Providence grabbed three offensive rebounds and saw more than one player dive onto the floor to keep the possession, which ended with senior Grant Goad at the foul line.
The hustle was infectious.
From there, the Pioneers mounted a 14-0 run that spanned more than four minutes, scoring on a variety of putbacks and layups, nearly all of them triggered by their defense. Ben Shahroudi had six points and two steals during the decisive stretch and wreaked havoc on the Paoli backcourt. Goad finished the run with a 3-pointer to put Providence ahead 33-24, and the Pioneers would lead 36-27 heading into the final period.
“There have been a few games where we looked like we were going to be run off the boards, be beaten to every loose ball,” Lefevre said. “It’s a choice that players make — and these players made the choice to go all out.”
Goad was forced to change jerseys after his first one ended up with blood stains, but he didn’t miss a beat, assisting on a Daniel Schuler layup and hitting two free throws to swell the Pioneer lead to 42-31 with 4:50 left to play.
Providence finished things at the foul line, where it finally began to knock down enough shots to preserve a comfortable margin throughout the finishing stretch. The Pioneers hit six in a row at one point, although they ended up at 18-of-31 for the evening.
Paoli (11-9) got 16 points each from Tanner Wroblewski and Skyler Stroud, who combined to score 19 of the Rams’ first 21 points. Paoli managed to open a five-point edge in the early going, but Providence got good production on the interior from Nick Hayes, who hit a baby hook in the lane to put the Pioneers up 16-13 after the first eight minutes.
Goad had 16 points for the Pioneers, while Shahroudi finished with 13 points. Hayes added 12 points and seven rebounds in the victory.
CLARKSVILLE 68, CRAWFORD COUNTY 55
An intense atmosphere awaited the two most accomplished teams in the sectional, and the Generals were up to the task from the beginning.
Class 2A No. 2 Clarksville trailed 6-5 when it ran off the game’s next nine points to take a lead it would never lose, aided by hot starts from Marquise Parrish and D.J. Coleman.
“Those two guys are the key,” said Clarksville coach Jason Connell. “When those two guys play like that, we’re tough to beat.”
Parrish knifed into the lane for a series of pull-up jumpers, while Coleman handled things from outside, knocking down two 3s in the first period to help the Generals take a 19-10 edge after the first eight minutes.
That doesn’t mean it was easy.
The Wolfpack (18-4) put pressure on Clarksville’s lead throughout, getting to within 20-17 on a 3 from Ranger Caffrey. Still, the Generals always had an answer, coming right back with a three-point play from Aham Yennes that jump-started a 7-0 burst that made it 27-17.
That’s when things took an odd turn.
The intensity of the matchup finally spilled over when Parrish was called for a technical foul after being knocked down and becoming tangled up with Caffrey. The reason for the call was unclear, but the Crawford guard seemed to take it personally. He knocked down the two free throws and then a 3 on the ensuing possession to make it 27-22. An offensive foul then gave the Wolfpack the ball back as halftime loomed.
Crawford — with only one senior on the roster — then found out how much of a difference an upperclassman can make, as Clarksville’s Andrew Jones stole the ball near midcourt and laid it in just as time expired, erasing Crawford’s chance to draw closer and sending the Generals into the locker room with a 29-22 edge.
Jones came out of the break just as hot, hitting a 3-pointer and delivering on a 3-point play to grow the Clarksville lead to 35-22. From there, the Generals defense held Crawford County in check and never allowed a serious run.
“That’s what we’ve been preaching all week,” Connell said. “Which team was going to show up? The hard-nosed defensive team that knows how to win, or the soft defensive team that we’ve seen our last four games. The hard-nosed team showed up.”
Crawford kept fighting and kept fouling throughout the final period, at one point getting to within 61-55 with 57.1 seconds to go. But Clarksville continued to take care of business at the stripe, getting 18 of its final 20 points at the foul line, including four in a row from Coleman to put the Wolfpack away.
Jones, who fought foul trouble throughout and eventually picked up his fifth late in the contest, had 21 points to lead the Generals. Coleman and Parrish had 16 each for Clarksville and Calvin McEwen had nine points and five assists and provided a steady presence as Crawford tried to force mistakes in its last gasp.
Crawford got 22 points from Caffrey and 16 from Brandon Cate, but the rest of the team was held mostly silent by a Clarksville defense that forced the normally-steady Wolfpack into 14 turnovers.
CLASS 2A PAOLI SECTIONAL
PROVIDENCE 53, PAOLI 43
Paoli 13 8 6 16—43
Providence 16 1 19 17—53
Paoli (11-9): Skyler Stroud 16, Tanner Wroblewski 16, Carter Chastain 2, Evan Jones 3, Dathan Chastain 6.
Providence (14-6): Grant Goad 16, Ben Shahroudi 13, Daniel Schuler 8, Nick Hayes 12, Juston Betz 2.
3-point field goals: Paoli 3 (Wroblewski 2, Jones, Stroud); Providence 2 (Goad 2).
Rebounds: Paoli 24 (Dathan Chastain 12); Providence 26 (Hayes, Goad 7).
Assists: Paoli 3 (Wroblewski 2); Providence 8 (Goad 4).
Steals: Paoli 3 (Stroud 2); Providence 7 (Goad 3).
Blocked shots: Paoli 2 (Wroblewski, Bosley); Providence 3 (Hayes 2)
Turnovers: Providence 7, Paoli 10.
Free throws: Providence 18-31, Paoli 2-5.
Technical fouls: None.
Fouled out: Paoli — Kameda
CLARKSVILLE 68, CRAWFORD COUNTY 55
Crawford Co. 10 12 17 16—55
Clarksville 19 10 19 20—68
Crawford County (18-4): Ranger Caffrey 22, Brandon Cate 16, Drake Melton 2, Jacob Mauck 8, Tyrell Nicholson 2, Ethan McMonigle 5.
Clarksville (19-2): Calvin McEwen 9, D.J. Coleman 16, Evan Guenthner 3, Marquise Parrish 16, Aham Yennes 3, Andrew Jones 21.
3-point field goals: Crawford County 3 (Caffrey 3); Clarksville 6 (Coleman 3, Jones 3).
Rebounds: Crawford County 25 (Thomas 7); Clarksville 20 (McEwen 5).
Assists: Crawford County 6 (Melton 2); Clarksville 10 (McEwen 5).
Steals: Crawford County 5 (Melton 2); Clarksville 7 (Parrish 3).
Blocked shots: Crawford County 1 (Cate); Clarksville 2 (Jones, McEwen).
Turnovers: Crawford County 14, Clarksville 12.
Free throws: Crawford County 12-13, Clarksville 22-33.
Technical fouls: Clarksville — Parrish.
Fouled out: Clarksville — Jones.