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This postseason, which began last week for Class 4A boys high school teams, marked the first time that Proviso East’s and Proviso West’s basketball teams both advanced to a regional championship game for the first time since 2013—a year when the Pirates and Panthers faced each other in a regional title contest.
The Pirates, playing in the Curie regional and seeded ninth, defeated No. 8 seed De LaSalle 60-51 in their regional semifinal March 1, enabling them to advance to the regional championship last Friday. Meanwhile, the 11th-seeded Panthers punched their ticket to the championship game of their own regional by holding off neighborhood rival St. Joseph of Westchester 76-72.
Unfortunately, neither the Pirates nor the Panthers were able to advance to this week’s Proviso East sectional as they were ousted in their respective regional title matchups. The Pirates and Panthers lost by nearly identical scores last Friday, with East bowing to No. 1 seed Curie 69-44 and West falling to No. 3 seed Kenwood 69-45.
The last time the Panthers won a regional championship was in 2011. That year, they upended the Pirates 61-50. Reaching the sectional wasn’t in the cards for West last Friday, however.
The closest the Panthers got to Kenwood was 9-7 early in the first quarter, but the Broncos pulled away from West at that point and never looked back. Kenwood’s Bryson Langdon fired in three consecutive three-pointers to close out the first quarter and begin the second. By then, the Broncos had built up an 18-7 lead.
Kenwood held West scoreless for nearly half of the second period and amassed a 31-7 advantage. Head coach Michael Ingram utilized a number of Panther players during the second quarter, trying to find the right combination to somehow get West back into the game, but to no avail.
Junior Ronnie Allgood and Willante Williams each had seven points for the Panthers, who finished 14-14 overall. Elijah Gibson totaled six rebounds and three blocked shots.
The Panthers fared much better vs. sixth-seeded St. Joseph on March 1, but not without some drama in the fourth quarter.
Gibson and Allgood combined for 20 points in the first half to put West in front of the Chargers 39-29 at intermission. The Panthers closed out the third quarter with a 10-0 run—including two treys from Ward—and led 60-46 heading into the final period.
West led by as many as 16 points (62-46) early in the fourth, but St. Joseph (16-12) scored 10 unanswered points, trimming the Panthers’ lead to 62-56.
Allgood fouled out with 3:26 to go, and the Chargers ended up grabbing their first lead of the matchup, 65-64, shortly thereafter, thanks to a three-point play from Chanz Aldridge.
The score was tied at 67 with less than three minutes remaining, but the Panthers went up by four (71-67) on a Deveon Bryant basket, followed by two free throws from Iziah Saddler.
West survived turning the ball over twice as the clock ticked down to the final minute. The Chargers then committed a turnover which led to Williams sinking two free throws. Gibson upped the Panthers lead to 74-69 with 19.3 seconds to go, but the Chargers sank a three-pointer, and West’s lead was cut to 74-72 with 10.5 seconds remaining.
“This game shouldn’t have been close,” said Ingram. “I think we missed more than 15 free throws and about seven point-blank layups. Our defense was good for most of the night. That’s what I told the guys that defense wins championship and they played really good defense for the most part other than the end of the third and into the fourth quarter. We rebounded really well but they hit us hard on the boards too.”
Williams, though, came up big, converting on two free throws, and providing the Panthers with their margin of victory.
“I just wanted to get the win for us,” said Williams, a junior, “and trying to get to the regional championship. “They’re a very good team, a very tough team. It was a good win and it was great that we got the win.”
“You’ve got to give Joes credit,” Ingram said. “Man, their pressure, I mean, those guys I give them credit. They pressured our guys and we had some turnovers, but in the end we managed to handle the ball and make our free throws.”
Ingram called the victory the biggest for his club during his three-year tenure.
“The biggest joy that I have out of it is that we had five guys in double figures,” he said. “We played balanced and we played good. We have that kind of talent. If we play right, we’re good.”
Gibson led the Panthers with 16 points, Saddler and Bryant each scored 14, Allgood had 13 and Ward 11.
“That’s the thing about how I try to coach my players,” Ingram said. “Everybody has a green light. I don’t count on certain players because if you count on one or two players that are your main players, a team can easily stop you if they shut those two down. Now only did they score, but they scored in many different ways—outside, inside, fast break, so we have a talented group of guys; we’ve just had some rough bumps this year and our record doesn’t show … we’re a much better team than our record.”
The Pirates welcomed back head coach Donnie Boyce last February after he was reinstated in time for last year’s postseason. The team went on to win a regional crown and play in the sectional semifinals.
Boyce was at the helm for the entire 2016-17 campaign, but history didn’t repeat itself in the postseason this time around. The Pirates ran into a buzzsaw last Friday in Curie (25-3), the No. 6-ranked team in this week’s Sun-Times Super 25 basketball rankings.
Proviso basketball fans will have an opportunity this week to see Curie at the Proviso East sectional. Curie took on fourth-seeded Oak Park-River Forest (ranked 16th by the Sun-Times) Tuesday night, and if victorious, would face the winner of No. 2 seed Whitney Young vs. Kenwood Friday at 7 p.m.
Senior Tyler Chisom led the Pirates with 21 points in his final high school game. Elijah Joiner was Curie’s leading scorer (16 points). Jordan Morris was the Pirates’ top rebound for the game (eight).
Jaelon Hood’s 15 points set the pace for the Pirates in their triumph over De LaSalle.
East finished 13-14 overall, but the Pirates improved noticeably after getting off to a 1-8 start this season. Losing Chisom, Jamal Smith and Joshua Smith to graduation will hurt; however, the Pirates have a strong nucleus back for 2017-18, including the 6-5 Morris, Hood, Trevor Moore and Quinlan Bennett (all juniors).