The Providence Pioneers advanced to the Class 2A semistate after a convincing 56-29 win over North Decatur in the morning semifinal of Saturday’s Class 2A Southridge Regional and a nailbiting 46-43 victory in the championship game against 2A No. 2 Eastern Greene.
It marks the second regional title and second appearance in a semistate in school history for the Pioneers, who improved to 22-3 on the season. Although there were many heroes on the day for Providence, junior forward George Knott, who scored 35 points in both games and notched 19 in the nightcap, was named tournament MVP.
“In the summer and the fall, George worked and worked and worked,” Providence coach Lou Lefevre said. “You’re seeing the benefits now. He was always a raw potential kid who started as a freshman, but had some bad luck (with injuries) last year, and just kept working. He has been unbelievable.”
Providence, who last appeared in a semistate in 2007, will now move on to either Seymour or Southport next Saturday for the semistate. The Pioneers will face Class 2A No. 1 and defending 2A state champion Park Tudor — and Mr. Basketball candidate and Indiana University recruit Yogi Ferrell.
PROVIDENCE 46, EASTERN GREENE 43
The Pioneers hounded the Thunderbirds (24-2) and star forward J.T. Yoho, holding them to 1-of-11 shooting in the first quarter en route to a 9-2 lead. Yoho, a 6-foot-6 Wright State commitment, missed his first six shots from the field.
But Eastern Greene came alive at the start of the second quarter. Yoho nailed a short jumper, Miles Hutchison followed up a miss with a tip-in and Tyler Brough sank a 3-pointer to knot the game at nine with 3:51 remaining in the first half.
Following the Brough score, Dalton Duley answered with a 3-pointer to give Providence a 12-9 lead. For the remainder of the first half, the Pioneers would answer each Eastern Greene score with one of their own, never relinquishing the lead.
Following another Brough 3-pointer that tied the game at 16, Pioneers’ center Ryan Pickerrell grabbed the rebound following an Aaron Shahroudi miss and put it back to give Providence an 18-16 lead with 43 seconds left before intermission.
Brody Martin’s baseline jumper at the end of the first half fell short for the Thunderbirds, and Providence held the two-point lead at halftime.
Yoho scored the first five points of the second half for Eastern Greene, which took a 21-18 lead with seven minutes left in the third quarter. But inside buckets from Pickerrell and Knott gave the Pioneers the lead back seconds later at 22-21.
Eastern Greene continued to threaten throughout the third and fourth quarters. Brough, whose four field goals were all 3-pointers, sank his final attempt from the field with three minutes remaining to give the Thunderbirds a 39-38 lead.
But a minute later, Duley’s putback basket with 1:41 remaining gave the Pioneers a 41-40 advantage, and Providence wouldn’t trail again.
Pioneer senior Colin Daly sank four consecutive free-throw attempts inside the final minute and made a crucial steal off an Eastern Greene inbounds play to help secure the win. A desperation heave from the baseline at the buzzer from Hutchison was long on the Thunderbirds’ last possession, and the celebration was on.
“The ability to make that steal and hit those free throws and help my team — that’s all I want to do,” Daly said. “This is a great team, and any one of us can make a big play at any time.”
Lefevre echoed those sentiments and, as he has all season, expressed great admiration for his team and its accomplishments.
“Everytime it looks like we’re out, and we have one foot in the grave, someone pulls us out, and it’s a different person every time,” Lefevre said. “That’s what a great team is. The reason they can do it is that no one has to be the star of the team, and that is really unusual in high school basketball. They’re happy with whomever does it, and that’s the mark of a great team.”