WOODLAND HILLS — The point guard matchup was clearly the most anticipated when the Providence High and Campbell Hall boys’ basketball teams squared off in the War on the Floor Extravaganza.
Both the Pioneers and Vikings freshman guards — Marcus Lovett, Jr. and Aaron Holiday, respectively, were asked to take a picture together by the tournament directors before Saturday’s game at Taft High, which was standing room only.
The game lived up to the billing, as it came down to the last second. In the end, it was Lovett’s clutch ability to grab key boards and hit free throws late that helped Providence pull off the 73-66 victory.
“I knew I had to take over because that’s what the best players do,” said Lovett, who scored a game-high 45 points, including 21 in the fourth quarter. “It was nice going up against [Holiday]. It was just two guys who love to compete. Today was a good day.”
Providence Coach Ernest Baskerville said the game was a lot more than just an exciting one-on-one matchup, though.
“With [Campbell Hall] being in a higher division than us, it’s good for us to play teams a few steps ahead of us,” Baskerville said. “I know everyone wants to make this about two players, but what I really saw was a well-played team game.”
Holiday scored a team-high 27 points and had seven boards. Campbell Hall’s Cole Huff also had a big game with a double-double (21 points and 13 rebounds). Providence’s Patrick Gonzalez also shined with 11 points and 12 boards.
After trailing by as many as nine, 49-40, with 2:23 to go in the third quarter, the Pioneers (17-4) put together a fourth-quarter comeback. Lovett started it off with a three-pointer on the Pioneers’ first possession of the quarter to cut the Vikings’ lead to 51-48. Lovett hit two layups and Providence’s Christian Ware-Berry converted an and-one opportunity to tie the game at 55 with 5:20 left.
The Pioneers, top-ranked in CIF Southern Section Division V-A, took their first lead since early in the second quarter when Lovett converted an and-one opportunity after grabbing a steal to put his team up, 60-59, with 3:49 remaining.
Campbell Hall, ranked sixth in Division IV-A, tied the game again at 62 with 3:10 left when Huff finished an and-one chance of his own. From that point on, Lovett took over and nabbed two big late rebounds off Vikings (7-14) misses and hit nine of his 10 free throws in the last 2:33.
Lovett scored the last 13 Pioneer points with nine of them coming at the line.
“He hit his free throws, grabbed rebounds and really stepped it up and carried us down the stretch,” Baskerville said.
It proved to be the difference in a wild game that featured five lead changes, two in the fourth, and eight ties, three in the final quarter.
“It’s great to play in an atmosphere like this because it gets us ready for the playoffs,” Baskerville said. “We’ve played well in close games this year.”