By JON REITER
If Saturday’s season-opening, 53-29 win over Indianapolis Metropolitan is any indication, the Providence Pioneers’ boys basketball squad appears poised to pick up where they left off from last year.
Still, Providence coach Lou Lefevre was mostly unimpressed with his squad’s performance, saying that his troops didn’t play with the intensity and smarts he expected coming off last year’s Class 2A semi-state run.
“Defensively, I know they didn’t score a lot,” Lefevre said. “The first half we gave up a tremendous amount of wide open shots. For the most part, whenever we’ve played [Metropolitan] in the opening game, we haven’t looked really solid all the way around. I wouldn’t say it was mid-season championship form tonight — but we did enough things to outplay them.
“We have an experienced team. We have a team full of junior and seniors and you hope in your first game they look like they’ve been out there before. That wasn’t always the case tonight.”
The Pioneers never trailed, and behind the inside duo of 6-foot-4 senior center George Knott and 6-5 senior forward Dalton Duley, they incrementally built their lead over the course of four quarters to capture the victory.
A short jumper from Knott, who led all scorers with 17 points, opened the scoring for the Pioneers and a 3-pointer from Duley and lay-in from center Ryan Pickerell gave Providence a 7-0 lead just outside the opening minute of the contest.
The Pumas (0-1) scratched and clawed their way back towards the end of the first quarter, and two free throws from guard Xzavier Groves closed the gap to 12-8 with 49 second remaining in the first quarter.
On offense, reserve forward Nick Hayes threw up a buzzer-beater attempt from the baseline on Providence’s last possession of the first quarter that glanced off the rim. Duley scooped up the long rebound and put it in at the buzzer for a 14-8 Providence lead.
Providence would build their lead to 25-12 at the end of the first half and would gain a 40-19 advantage at the end of the third quarter by scoring the last nine points of the third frame over the final four minutes.
Knott was particularly effective in the second half, scoring 11 of his game-high 17 points on 5 of 6 shooting from the field. Duley’s 15 points included a perfect 3 of 3 shooting from beyond the 3-point arc.
Defensively, Providence kept the Pumas from finding the basket with much success. Metropolitan shot 8 of 31 (25 percent) from the field, and the Pioneers enjoyed a plus-9 rebounding advantage.
It was a struggle for Providence from the free throw line. The Pioneers only sank 8 of 19 free throws, with Pickerell and Knott making 1 of 6 each.
“We haven’t been a good free throw shooting team. That’s an issue. If they could have just fouled our big guys underneath, I’d have done the same thing,” Lefevre said. “It’s as good as a turnover or a steal if you send them to the line and they don’t make free throws.”
Providence hosts Austin Friday night at the Robert L. Larkin Center.
PROVIDENCE 53, INDIANAPOLIS METROPOLITAN 29
Ind. Metropolitan 8 4 7 10—29
Providence 14 11 15 13—53
Indianapolis Metropolitan (0-1): Jhalyn Baylor 2, Jared Wright 2, Kris Hampton 4, Xzavier Groves 11, Ryan Carroll 2, Andrew Dillon 4, Keenan Griffin 1, Joshua Ward 3.
Providence (1-0): Nano Grantz 6, Cory Cahalan 2, Ryan Pickerell 5, Dalton Duley 15, George Knott 17, Ben Shahroudi 0, Grant Goad 2, Nick Hayes 0, Brad Koerner 4, Jacob Quinkert 2.
Rebounds: Metropolitan 25 (Baylor 6); Providence 34 (Pickerell 7).
3-point goals: Metropolitan 2 (Hampton, Dillon); Providence 3 (Dalton Duley).
Turnovers: Metropolitan 12, Providence 11.
Free throws: Metropolitan 13-19, Providence 8-20.