Providence boys' basketball bounces back to win playoff opener

LOS ANGELES — It was a dismal second quarter for the Providence High boys' basketball team. And the fact it came in a CIF Southern Section playoff game made things even worse.

In the second stanza against host Salesian on Wednesday in the first round of the Division IV-A playoffs, the Pioneers scored just two points. Luckily for Providence, the Mustangs didn't play particularly well in the second quarter either, as the hosts went into halftime with a five-point advantage.

Weathering their second-quarter drought, the Pioneers were able to battle back and play better in the second half. They seized control in the final minute and were able to walk away with a 50-47 victory on the road.

It was the first postseason win for the Pioneers since 2012 when they advanced to the Division V-A championship.

It was also the first playoff win at Providence (16-10) for first-year coach Chris Madigan, whose team finished third in the Liberty League.

"It was a tough battle and Salesian is a very strong, physical team," Madigan said. "I'm still trying to figure out how we were able to win it."

The Pioneers moved on to the second round Friday and will take on either No. 6 Crossroads or Sage Hill. Providence would host Crossroads and travel to face Sage Hill.

It was a streaky performance for Providence. But the team was able to spread the scoring around, as the Pioneers were led by senior Kyle Lipton, who had 18 points, including four three-pointers. Fellow seniors Jonathan Ly and Josias Parker chipped in 12 points apiece.

Providence came out and played well in the first quarter, paced by an 11-point, three three-pointer effort from Lipton. The Pioneers were clicking on offense, converting on seven of 11 shots from the field for a scalding 64%. Providence also played tough defense, forcing eight turnovers.

As a result, the Pioneers ended the first quarter with a 20-17 lead against Salesian (18-10) — the third-place team from the Santa Fe League.

But things went south for Providence in the second quarter, as the team did a 180. The only field goal of the stanza came with a basket by Lipton with 3:01 remaining. In the quarter, the Pioneers made just one of 13 shots from the field (8%) and committed six turnovers.

Although it could have been worse, the Mustangs experience their troubles in the second, as well, making four of 15 shots (27%) and missing five of six free throws. The Pioneers were outscored, 10-2, in the quarter and went into the half trailing by five, 27-22.

Missed free throws hampered the Mustangs throughout the game, as they were five of 16. In contrast, the Pioneers made all 12 of their free throws

"The same shots that we were hitting in the first quarter were the exact same shots we were missing in the second," Madigan said. "We have a tendency to sometimes get a little streaky and then we get cold, so usually we just have to weather the storm.

"At halftime, I told them that those same shots that you were making in the first quarter were the ones you were missing in the second. So I told them to not change a thing and keep shooting."

The Pioneers came back in the third and went ahead, 31-30, with 4:26 remaining. But Salesian pushed back and went into the fourth with a 41-35 advantage.

Providence whittled down the lead in the fourth and inched ahead, 46-45, on a steal and assist from Parker and a bucket by Ly with 1:40 left.

Salesian then took back the lead, 47-46, after a free throw by Kevin Scott with 1:24 left. Undaunted, the Pioneers battled once again, and when Ly sank two free throws with 25.8 seconds remaining, Providence was up, 48-47.

After both teams couldn't score on their next possessions, the Pioneers were able to go up by three, 50-47, with eight seconds remaining on a layup by Harrison Pyros.

The Mustangs had one last possession in the closing seconds, but a three-point attempt by Jason Rivera banked out and the final buzzer sounded before Salesian could get off another shot.

"It was a great effort from our guys," Madigan said. "We have played a lot of close games this year and I thought they stayed level-headed late in that fourth quarter."

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