Both the La Salle and Providence high boys’ basketball have young guards that can fill up a box score in a hurry, but those who came out to the finale of the Martin Luther King Showdown looking for a shootout were disappointed.
Coaches on both sides of the court were in agreement that defense was the key to the Lancers’ lopsided 83-61 victory at Providence High Monday night.
Offensively, La Salle (11-7) got a big boost from freshman guard Vance Jackson, who earned player of the game honors after he tied for the game-high mark in points with 30 and nine rebounds.
Providence sophomore point guard Marcus LoVett Jr. also put up 30 points, along with six boards, but it wasn’t enough to keep up with La Salle.
“We just didn’t want to let him beat us,” La Salle Coach Jelani Gardner said. “You don’t want to lose to a team that had one man score 50 points. If we were going to lose today, we wanted to make somebody else beat us.”
While Gardner was pleased with his defense Monday, Providence Coach Ernest Baskerville was far from it.
“I thought our energy level was horrible tonight,” Baskerville said. “To me, defense is built up off energy and effort and heart, and we had none of those three.”
LoVett had trouble getting going against the Lancers’ half-court press defense, as he got off to a slow start. The point guard was just one of six from the floor with four points in the first quarter.
“We closed the lane on him, every time he tried to drive he ran into a wall,” Gardner said. “The guys did a pretty good job of it and made him work for everything he got tonight.”
LoVett’s slow start was the result of a number of hard fouls that wore him down and weren’t consistently called by the referees, Baskerville said.
“There were a lot of hard fouls,” he said. “The refs at some point have to clean it up.”
The Lancers began to pull away early in the contest, as their defense forced six turnovers in the first quarter. La Salle also played the strong on the other end in the opening frame, as it closed the quarter on a 12-0 run -- with four different players scoring in that span – to go into the second up, 23-10.
LoVett, who was seven of 19 from the floor in the game, pulled the Pioneers (6-13) within eight, 25-17, as he scored their first seven points of the second quarter. La Salle responded with a 7-0 spurt to keep the home team at arm’s length. LoVett scored 15 of Providence’s 17 points in the second quarter, but it was Christian Ware-Berry (14 points, seven rebounds) who looked like he’d given the Pioneers some momentum to take into halftime.
The junior grabbed a defensive rebound and went coast to coast before throwing down a dunk with about 20 seconds left in the half to put Providence within 12, 39-27, after Jackson drained a three-pointer well behind the line with 48 ticks left to give him 10 points in the quarter.
Monday marked the second game in a row Jackson’s scored 30 points. The freshman said he’s feeling good right now, but these performances aren’t really anything out of the ordinary.
La Salle pushed its lead to 61-43 headed into the fourth with an 8-0 and 9-2 run in the third quarter.
“I feel confident, but it’s just what I do; I practice every day,” Jackson said.
The Lancers had plenty of balance offensively with six players scoring at least six points. Milan Acquuah had 10 points and six rebounds, Connor Williams had eight points and Justin Jitpatima had seven points off the bench for La Salle.
“We just want to let the game dictate who scores,” Gardner said. “We don’t want to premeditate Vance is going to score 30. If the game dictates it and he has an open shot then so be it, but we just want to play good team basketball and take what the defense gives us.”
Outside of LoVett and Ware-Berry, the Pioneers had one player with more than five points, as DJ Cabrerra had nine points, five rebounds and two blocks.
Baskerville admitted his team didn’t have a good shooting night, but his concerns lied elsewhere.
“I’m not worried about us scoring,” he said, “my problem is we didn’t defend.”