By Rick Assad
In what could best be described as a high-intensity, defensive battle, the Providence High boys’ basketball team came within one possession of tying and perhaps winning the CIF Southern Section II AA first-round playoff game versus visiting Fountain Valley.
Alas, with three seconds left on the inbound toss, the Pioneers turned the ball over near midcourt and the Barons scored on a layup to cap a 54-50 victory on Wednesday night at the Burbank High gym with a capacity crowd in attendance.
Neither team shot especially well but three-pointers fell in abundance just like the rain falling outside.
The Pioneers hit 18 of 49 shots for 36.7 percent but only eight of 26 for 30.7 percent in the first half, then turned it around after canning 10 of 23 for 43.4 percent in the second half.
The Barons were successful on 20 of 51 for 39.2 percent, 10 of 29 for 34.4 percent in the opening half and came back and made 10 of 22 for 45.4 percent across the last two periods.
Senior shooting guard/wing Jalen Thomas accounted for a team-best 18 points for Providence.
When Thomas drilled a three-pointer with 2:10 left in the game, the score was knotted at 50-50.
Thomas converted four of the 10 three-pointers made by the Pioneers while senior shooting guard/wing Julian Thompkins added 11 points that included one three-pointer.
Providence coach Anthony Cosby praised his opponent.
“First, I tip my hat to Fountain Valley,” he said. “They’re a well coached group, skilled and shot it well.”
Cosby then recounted what the contest boiled down to.
“The game came down to guys anchoring down and making shots, getting key defensive stops, and winning or stopping second chance opportunities,” he explained. “They made them and we didn’t make enough of them.”
Still, Cosby was proud of his team and their effort.
“I love my kids. I love my parents and I’m proud of my young group,” he said. “This experience will help us grow and get better.”
Junior guard Aaron De Santiago scored a game-high 24 points and converted six of the Barons’ 11 three-pointers.
De Santiago dropped 12 points in the second period when Fountain Valley outscored Providence 18-10 and led 30-24 at halftime.
De Santiago’s three-pointer and 4:53 left in the second quarter saw the Barons march ahead 21-16.
Providence sophomore wing Riley Murphy, who scored nine points, tallied six points, all on three-pointers in the second period.
The Pioneers (18-11) controlled the opening frame after leading 14-12 as Thomas tallied 10 points with six points coming via treys.
When Thomas drilled a three-pointer and 1:55 left in the initial frame, the Pioneers were ahead 12-7.
De Santiago scored four points in the same period while senior power forward/center Parker Rodriguez (nine points) and senior forward Colin Risse (eight points) each nailed a three-pointer for the Barons (17-12) to keep the score close.
The Pioneers closed the gap after three periods to 47-42 as sophomore point guard Solomon Huang scored all of his eight points in the quarter after hitting two three-pointers and a hoop.
De Santiago was still hot as his three-pointer with 6:12 on the ticker in the third period extended Fountain Valley’s cushion to 35-24.
Thompkins also helped out with seven points that included a three-pointer in the third quarter.
Perhaps it was fatigue or nerves by both squads, but the fourth period saw Providence outscore Fountain Valley 8-7.
Sophomore wing Griffin Berschneider scored four points in the opening half for the Pioneers.