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Providence boys' basketball survives in overtime against Calabasas

Providence boys' basketball survives in overtime against Calabasas
Pioneers' A'Jahni Levias drives to the basket against Calabasas during Monday's Providence Summer League game. (Miguel Vasconcellos)

BURBANK — The quick tempo and fast breaks that the Providence High boys’ basketball team has come be to known for did the job in the first 10 minutes of each half of a summer league game against Calabasas on Monday.

The Pioneers were able to force turnovers and spread the ball around to take a 20-point lead midway into the second half against the Coyotes. But an onslaught of three-point shots from their opponent slowly, but surely, cut into the Pioneers’ lead.

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Calabasas forced overtime, but Providence was able survive with a 68-67 victory in a Providence Summer League contest.

“We coasted a little bit and that’s the hardest part about having a lead against anybody,” said Providence assistant coach Eric George, who took over the helm with head coach Brandon Lincoln out of town. “You start to take ill-advised shots, the ball sticks more and you might start looking more for the individual game.

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“I was telling them that this is the summertime and [Calabasas coach Jon Palarz] is one of the best coaches in the state. I don’t care who you are. You’re not beating them by 20, are you crazy? With a bunch of freshmen, you’re not going to beat them by 20. He’s just a great coach.”

The Coyotes knocked down seven three-pointers in the second half to erase a 20-point deficit and catapult to their first lead, 60-59, since the opening minute of the game with 23.4 seconds left in regulation. Calabasas outscored Providence, 19-2, in a span of 5 minutes, 12 seconds to take the advantage.

Pioneers senior Bryce Whitaker helped Providence regain the lead, 62-60, on a three-point play before the Coyotes tied it on a layup with 4.9 seconds left to send the game into overtime.

Providence struck first 15 seconds into overtime with a hook-shot from A’Jahni Levias to take a 64-62 lead.

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The Coyotes responded with a drive into the post for a layup and foul to take back the lead, 65-64, with 1:27 left.

Whitaker found Michael Joanou in the post for an easy basket for a 66-65 advantage with 55.1 seconds remaining, before the Coyotes took the lead back with a pair of free throws from forward Derek Morhar.

It would be a pair of shots from the line from senior Jordan Shelley that would seal the victory for Providence.

“We know it’s going to give them momentum, so we just had to stay calm,” said Whitaker about the Calabasas three-pointers. “We just have to run our plays, score easy points and close out harder so they don’t score like that.”

Levias led the Pioneers with 16 points to go along with six rebounds and six assists. Whitaker added 15 points and eight assists with two in overtime, while Shelley finished with 13 points and four steals.

“We had some ups and downs,” Whitaker said. “It showed our potential when we came out in the first 10 minutes.

“As it died down, we just had to stay strong. They had a very great coaching scheme and we just had to play our game instead of playing theirs.”

Morhar scored 17 points on seven-for-12 shooting and was three of six from beyond the arc — all in the second half. AJ Werner added 15 points with four three-pointers for Calabasas.

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“You play hard, you get rewarded for it,” Palarz said. “You play lazy, nothing good can happen. No special sauce or secret.

“I thought in the second part of the first half we were able to hang around and put ourselves in a position to where we could be in the game with a good second half.”

Indeed, the Coyotes worked for their shots as they outrebounded the Pioneers, 10-5, in the second half.

Calabasas tallied 12 assists as a team during that span, compared to Providence’s 19 total. The Coyotes recorded just three assists to the Pioneers’ 10 in the first half.

“We haven’t gone over enough defense this summer because everything is just trying to teach the play to play,” George said. “We’ve been working on conditioning and their bodies. We haven’t spent much time on defense and today, it showed.

“Coach Palarz is running college- and pro-typed sets. No matter what he does, he’s going to get his guy open. We’re biting. We’re taking the bait. We’re double-teaming everybody, and I never asked them to double-team. I kept screaming, ‘stop switching,’ and guess what they were doing? Switching. We’re double-teaming. That’s why it went from 20 to them up by one because they can shoot the ball.”

Providence took a 15-3 lead on a 15-1 run with 13:01 left in the first half.

For much of the first half, the Coyotes’ only method of scoring was by way of free throws. But by the end of the half, Calabasas took advantage of Providence’s slow pace to knock down shots.

The Coyotes trailed the Pioneers, 31-20, at halftime.

Providence created its largest lead, 43-23, three minutes into the second half before the Coyotes started to knock down their three-pointers.

Calabasas went on a 10-2 scoring run midway into the second half to slice the Providence advantage to 50-39.

The Coyotes then outscored the hosts, 17-2, and with 23.4 left trailed by 59-58.

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