PROVIDENCE HIGH—Rivals Bellarmine-Jefferson High and Providence took the court in the final game of an all-day tournament benefiting a good cause Saturday at Providence High School.
The game proved worthy of main-event status, as the Guards and the Pioneers ended a successful day that raised $850 for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation with a thrilling see-saw battle — something that ought to be expected any time the two private schools face each other.
In the end, the host Pioneers, led by Marcus Lovett Jr., edged the Guards, 77-71, in a high-scoring affair that featured four lead changes.
“Records don’t matter when these two teams play,” said Pioneers Coach and event director Earnest Baskerville, whose team improved to 14-3. “Most of these guys went to middle school together and we’re the only two Catholic schools in Burbank, so there’s a sense of pride.”
Providence looked to be in total control of the game early, jumping out to a 15-2 lead midway through the first quarter. The Guards, however, turned up the defense and improved their shooting as they fought back and cut into the lead.
The Guards (6-11) made of their 10 of their 14 field-goal attempts in the second quarter while the defense double-teamed Lovett Jr. and forced his teammates to make plays. The freshman guard still scored 13 first-half points, but nine came from the charity stripe.
“I couldn’t be happier in the game plan,” Guards Coach Julian Andrade said. “We played it to perfection. Unfortunately, we didn’t take care of the ball on offense.”
Will Morales’ three-pointer with 1:50 remaining in the second quarter gave the Guards their first lead of the game, 30-28. Turnovers in the waning seconds of the half allowed Providence to retake the lead and go into the half with a slight advantage, 39-37.
In what looked to be a run away for the Pioneers was now set up for an intriguing second half.
Bell-Jeff continued its hot shooting in the third quarter, making four of its first six attempts to take a 46-41 lead — its biggest of the game.
However, Providence took a lead that would not be relinquished again soon after and finished the quarter on a 17-2 run. Lovett Jr., Patrick Gonzalez and Christian Ware-Berry accounted for 19 of the team’s 21 third-quarter points.
For the game, the trio scored 64 points combined. Lovett, Jr. led all scorers with 30 points despite being double-teamed and being the focus of Bell-Jeff’s defense.
“I was open a lot, so I was able to find teammates inside,” said Gonzalez, who finished with 16 points. “It made the game a lot easier for me, and I made the game easier for my teammates.”
The Guards came within one point of the lead with just over a minute remaining in the contest on a Marcus Nadal jumper. But Ware-Berry extended the lead to three on the ensuing possession. Then, with 39 seconds remaining, the Guards had two good looks with potential game-tying three-pointers, but missed both tries.
Lovett Jr. iced the game with four free throws down the stretch.
“You can do one of three things: you can either fight, compete or give up,” Baskerville said. “Both teams fought tonight. We were just able to land more punches.”
Morales led the Guards with 20 points in the losing effort—15 of which came in the first half.