PROVIDENCE HIGH — Potent offenses, key plays, clutch performances and a thrilling second half highlighted the championship game of the 23rd annual Paul Sutton Tip-Off Classic between the San Marino High boys' basketball team and host Providence.
In the end, Marcus Lovett Jr. and the Pioneers staved off a second-half run by the Titans to take home the first-place trophy in the tournament's final game Saturday night.
Lovett earned MVP honors of the tournament, as his 37 points against San Marino led the Pioneers to a 71-69 victory at Providence High.
"The fourth quarter is crunch time, so I do what I gotta do," said Lovett, whose 11 fourth-quarter points almost single-handedly kept the Titans from coming all the way back. "They made a nice run."
As a team, the Pioneers (4-0) shot 14 of 26 in the first half to take a 42-22 lead into halftime against the Titans, who struggled from the field, making nine of 28 attempts after two quarters of play.
Most glaring, perhaps, was San Marino (3-1) guard and top scorer Jasper Hwang, who was held to just five first-half points as he and the rest of the Titans showed frustration due to the physical play and stifling defense that led to the low percentage from the field.
The shooting improved and the full-court pressure decreased for the Titans in the third quarter, as they connected on 50% of their attempts (seven of 14) to cut the once 20-point lead down to nine, outscoring the Pioneers in the quarter, 18-9. Hwang found his stroke, accounting for 12 of the team's third-quarter points.
"Some of the guys were getting frustrated, but we knew we had to stay patient," San Marino Coach Mihail Papadopulos said. "We were getting good shots. We just had to stay mentally tough and focus."
Despite trailing the entire game, the Titans were never out of it, but ultimately couldn't stop Lovett's dribble penetration late in the game. The freshman guard scored the final nine points for the Pioneers, including two big free throws that extended a 69-66 lead to five points with just under seven seconds remaining.
The free throws proved crucial after San Marino's Max Taw hit a three-pointer as time expired.
"We knew they would come back," Providence Coach Ernest Baskerville said. "I told the guys at halftime, the score is 0-0, and we just need to win the second half by two and that's exactly what we did."
The two teams combined to shoot 16 of 29 in the fourth quarter.
Hwang led the Titans with 25 points, followed up by Kyle Ezold, who added 15.
Lovett was complemented well by Patrick Gonzales' 11 points and 10 from Christian Ware-Berry.
Taw, Hwang, Lovett, and Gonzales earned all-tournament honors.
"He is a freshman beyond his years," said Baskerville of the tournament most valuable player. "We're thankful we have him. He's a special player."
Lovett said he is grateful to earn the honor.
"It gives me more confidence as the season moves forward, but I can't be satisfied," Lovett said.
Friday, Gonzalez became the Pioneers' all-time career scoring leader, passing Barry Dabbaghian's old mark of 1,555. Gonzalez now has scored 1,569 points in his career.