SANTA ANA — There’s a saying that it’s hard to beat the same team three times in one season.
Holy Martyrs Armenian made sure it rang true Saturday, as the Armens took down top-seeded Providence High in overtime, 65-62, of the CIF Southern Section Division 5-A championship game at Mater Dei High.
It took the sting out of finishing behind the Liberty League-champion Pioneers in the league standings after third-seeded Holy Martyrs fell to Providence in both league contests, 56-53, and 62-54.
“It’s hard to beat somebody three times,” Providence Coach Ernest Baskerville said. “That’s all I’ve been hearing all week and maybe people were saying it to them, I don’t know.”
A renewed dedication on the defensive end proved pivotal for the Armens (20-11).
“This game we focused mostly on defense,” said Holy Martyrs’ Nshan Kenjejion, who scored a team-high 30 points with 22 coming in the second half and overtime, where he scored nine. “We just focused on the little things because both games were decided by single digits so little things were what mattered this game.”
In his team’s previous two victories over the Armens, Providence’s Patrick Gonzalez scored 18 and 21 points. He was held to seven Saturday as Marcus LoVett Jr. was the lone Pioneer to hit double-digits with a game-high 38 points.
“I would have rather played another team because they wouldn’t know us, but it came down to this,” Gonzalez said.
Baskerville had to hand it to the Armens.
“They did a much better job this time face-guarding Patrick Gonzalez and making sure he didn’t get the ball,” he said.
Holy Martyrs captured its first CIF championship in program history as a result and denied Providence the same honor.
“They played with more heart,” said LoVett, who also had nine rebounds and four steals. “They knew we beat them twice and they were coming to get us and they did their job.”
The Armens put in the work leading up to the game and studied the tape of their previous two losses to the Pioneers (25-5).
“We saw our weaknesses — they were simple things,” Holy Martyrs Coach Koko Kaprielian said. “We had to box out and limit their second-chance opportunities. They are a very good transition team and this game we did a great job not letting them run.”
Nothing came easy for LoVett, who shot 38% (13 of 34) with 10 of his points coming off 11 free-throw attempts, thanks to Holy Martyrs running with LoVett and contesting almost every layup.
LoVett’s hope is his team will learn from the heartbreak and come back stronger in the years to come — or perhaps, this week, as Providence awaits today’s state playoff pairings to see if it will receive a berth.
"[The loss] just prepares us so when we get this opportunity again, hopefully we can get the win,” LoVett said.