From the time the 2A Paoli sectional draw took place almost two weeks ago, it appeared that in-town rivals Clarksville and Providence would be on a collision course to reach the championship game.
The possible grudge match became a reality Friday night as the Pioneers (15-6) dispatched Henryville, 58-40 in the early game at Paoli High School, and No. 2 Clarksville (20-2) took control early, and defeated Eastern 67-45 in the nightcap.
“To be able to have a team play for a championship in any sport is a very exciting thing,” Providence coach Lou Lefevre said. “Hopefully we’ll be able to take advantage of the fact that [Clarksville] will not be very intimidated by watching us play.”
“It’s a basketball game,” Clarksville coach Jason Connell said. “We view it as another game, we’re blessed to play in the championship. It is Providence, and they are two miles down the road from us, and we know each other well. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”
The Pioneers and Generals — winners of the last two Paoli sectional crowns, respectively — will matchup in the championship game tonight at 7:30 p.m.
PROVIDENCE 58, HENRYVILLE 40
The Pioneers struggled a bit out of the gate, committing two turnovers in the first 90 seconds of the contest. They entered the second quarter tied with the upstart Hornets (3-18), and after reserve guard Cole Hairston converted a 3-point play, trailed 16-13 with 6:35 remaining in the half.
“That was probably the most selfish first quarter we played all year long,” Lefevre said. “It was an unintelligent first quarter, and then, all of a sudden, we acted like we knew what we were doing. But, we put ourselves in a position where this game became a struggle. And it was. All the way.”
Reserve guard Brock Hayden’s free throw line jumper on the next Pioneer possession kickstarted an 11-0 Providence run over the next three minutes. After center Nick Hayes bulled his way inside for a lay-in and Ben Shahroudi sank 1 of 2 free throws for the Pioneers, Providence led 31-18 with one minute remaining in the first half.
The Pioneers entered halftime ahead by 10 at 31-21. Hayes — a 6-foot-2 senior — notched 12 of his game-high 16 points in the first half on 5 of 6 shooting from the field.
One key statistical area where the Pioneers held a clear advantage was on the boards, where they dominated the Hornets, 38-24. Grant Goad grabbed 10 boards to pace the Pioneers.
For Henryville coach Dan Carmony, his troops showed substantial improvement this season over 2012-13, when they failed to register a win. With no seniors and only three juniors, the Hornets look to improve even further during next year’s campaign.
There were signs in Friday’s game that Henryville was ready to make that leap.
Late in the third quarter, the Hornets whittled the Pioneer lead down to four at 37-33 after freshman guard Jacob Janek drove to the basket and scored, drawing a foul from Providence’s Brad Koerner. Janek missed the free throw, and Hayes scored for Providence on the other end next for a 39-33 lead. The Pioneers drew the lead out to double digits throughout the fourth quarter and put the Hornets away down the stretch.
“These kids played hard, and they really showed a lot of effort on offense, defense, you name it,” Carmony said. “We’ll work hard over the summer and look forward to even more improvement next season.”