Providence-St. Mel needed a last-second three-pointer to get past Northridge Prep on Wednesday.
No such drama was necessary on Friday.
The Knights used a smothering defense to produce plenty of early scoring chances and cruised past upstart Clark 62-33 to win the Class 2A Guerin Sectional.
It was the third straight sectional title for Providence-St. Mel (23-6), which advances to play Hales in Tuesday’s Joliet Central Supersectional.
“We won on Wednesday but we were not happy with the way we played,” Providence-St. Mel coach Tim Ervin said. “So the guys made a point tonight to come out and really lock in on defense and make our defense our offense. And that’s what happened.”
Indeed it did. The game was never close as the Knights scored the first five points on a three-pointer by Bernard Lilly, Jr., and a steal and layup by senior point guard Tevin King.
It was a sign of things to come. The Knights forced nine turnovers and King scored six of his 12 points in the opening quarter, which ended with Providence-St. Mel leading 14-3.
The final play of the quarter epitomized the way the game went. Clark’s Kayvon Williams stole the ball with five seconds left, only to have King strip him at midcourt and race in for a buzzer-beating dunk.
“Last game I was under the weather,” King said. “The guys helped me get myself back together mentally and physically. Tonight I just came out with the fire and energy to go hard and help my team win.”
But it wasn’t just King that stifled the Eagles. All five players on the floor moved in unison and not just on the press.
Clark barely had room to pass or shoot the ball in the half-court offense and few of the shots the Eagles did get off went uncontested. They shot just 3-for-22 in the first half as the Knights took a 32-9 lead into intermission.
Eight different players scored for Providence-St. Mel in the opening half and eight had at least one steal. Joshaun McNeal finished with four steals, while King had three and Kalind Nash, Eddie Burnett and Michael Johnson all pinched a pair.
“The secret was just playing as a unit,” King said. “Everybody was talking, everybody was moving at the same time, which is what we want on defense. Which made them frustrated and made them change their offense and take shots they didn’t want to take.”
The only highlight for Clark (15-13), which was appearing in its first sectional championship game, came in the third quarter when the Eagles used a 10-0 run to pull within 36-19, but McNeal’s steal and layup put an end to that rally.
Williams led Clark with 14 points, including three three-pointers, but no one else scored more than six. Kevin Sharpe added 11 rebounds.
McNeal had nine points and 12 rebounds and Johnson and Tyler Turner each scored seven for the Knights, who lost supersectionals to Seton each of the last two years, including a 46-45 defeat last year.
“We definitely got some unfinished business,” King said. “This is the third time we’ve been there and the third time is the charm.”