BY MITZI THOMPSON
NEW WASHINGTON —
Providence cranked up the defense and used a strong second half to hold off young but feisty New Washington Friday night, 55-46, in both teams’ regular-season finales.
The host Mustangs (6-15), who haven’t been able to string together more than a couple wins in a row this season, were in the driver’s seat much of the first half leading by as many as six thanks to patient and accurate perimeter shooting, but the Pioneers turned up the heat in the second set, allowing New Washington’s shooters fewer open looks while claiming the offensive momentum as well.
“Here’s the old clichéd quote about a team digging deeper and turning it up when it matters,” said Providence coach Lou Lefevre, whose team shot out of the gate with a 9-0 run just after the break to end New Washington’s five-point halftime lead. “Digging deeper was definitely the difference. But the thing is, every time you dig deeper like that, it probably means you weren’t trying as hard as you should have in the first place. I don’t think it’s an admirable thing to significantly turn it up.
“Teams that win tournaments turn it up when the ball is in the air leaving the referee’s hand at tipoff and keep it going for the entire game.”
The Mustangs went 10 for 19 from the floor in the first half — all but one were jumpshots and three were 3-pointers. In the second half — after Lefevre challenged his team’s defense to work harder at covering New Washington’s perimeter shooters — the hosts made 6 only of 14.
“They did a good job suckering us off their shooters, and they’ve got some shooters,” Lefevre said. “We were down low double-teaming their post and their shooters are out there getting open looks. They just plain outplayed us in the first half.”
The Pioneers (13-6) didn’t really put the game away until late in the fourth quarter.
Despite the 9-0 run that opened the half and a couple more scoring spurts after that, the Mustangs kept hanging on until Providence shut the door with a 10-0 scoring spree that ended with 1:28 to go, thanks in part to 6-of-7 free-throw shooting and a few second-chance baskets.
“I think our kids gave the best efforts they could have given,” said New Washington coach Jonathan May. “I don’t necessarily think this is the best basketball we can play, but they gave a strong effort. Unfortunately, our best wasn’t quite good enough tonight, especially in the second half. Providence is one of the best defensive teams around, and they really clamped down on us.”
On the offensive end, three players scored 12 points apiece for the Pioneers, including Grant Goad, who came up big in the second half with big free-throws and buckets at key times, one of which sparked the late 10-0 run. Goad also grabbed a team-high eight rebounds, dished out five assists and had two steals.
“He helped turn the game around for us,” Lefevre said of his 6-foot-5 senior. “I don’t know why he isn’t giving that same kind of intensity all the time. He spurred a lot to happen for us tonight.”
For the Mustangs, junior James Clemons led the way with 12 points and five assists. Freshman Zach Moore scored 11 points and collected 13 rebounds.
Both teams begin postseason play on Tuesday. Providence will take on the host Rams in the first round of the Class 2A Paoli Sectional, and New Washington travels to the Class A Borden Sectional to take on No. 6 Christian Academy.
PROVIDENCE 55, NEW WASHINGTON 46
Providence 10 10 14 21—55
New Wash 13 12 8 13—46
Providence (13-6): Grant Goad 12, Ben Shahroudi 12, Nick Hayes 12, Juston Betz 6, Brad Koerner 5, Daniel Schuler 4, Brock Hayden 2, Dawson Mitchell 2.
New Washington (6-15): James Clemons 12, Zach Moore 11, Devin Herron 8, Logan Miles 6, Caleb Ellison 5, Matthew Wilson 2, Jake Zimmerman 2.
3-point field goals: Providence 2 (Betz 2); New Washington 5 (Herron 2, Miles 2, Ellison).
Rebounds: Providence 21 (Goad 8); New Washington 21 (Moore 13).