Providence-St. Mel's Carl Garner puts up a shot against Hales Franciscan. | Mike Mantucca/For Sun-Times Media
Providence-St. Mel’s Tevin King could see the state semifinals right in front of him, there for the taking.
The last two seasons the Knights had reached the 2A supersectionals, they fell to Seton at Joliet Central.
But with another shot at state, the last for King, the Knights pushed through the barrier and defeated Hales on Tuesday in the supersectional. St. Mel advanced to the state semifinals, the program’s first state appearance since the 2001-2002 season.
“This right here, it is complete joy, but it’s not finished,” King said. “Making it here a third time, we wanted it to be ‘third time is the charm.’ I want to end my career on a great note. Winning state is everything.”
Providence-St. Mel (25-6) faces Bloomington Central (25-6) in a 2A semifinal at 8:15 p.m. Friday at Carver Arena in Peoria. The third-place and championship games are Saturday at 6:30 and 8:15 p.m.
Providence coach Tim Ervin didn’t see his team waver after the back-to-back supersectional losses. If anything, the Knights saw the writing on the wall.
The 2013-2014 squad came back raring to go.
“The players bought into what we were coaching,” Ervin said. “All of the guys bought in. We execute. We say what we want to run, and then we run it. These guys do a great job listening and executing.”
The Knights have played especially well in close games, winning eight games by five or fewer points.
King leads Providence-St. Mel, averaging 14.3 points, 5.8 rebounds and 4.8 assists. Fellow seniors Bernard Lilly Jr. (14.2 points, 90 three-pointers) and Joshuan McNeal (12.8 points, 7.3 rebounds) aren’t far behind, giving the Knights plenty of scoring options.
But it’s not about piling up the points, according to King. It’s about a team with a strong mix of veterans and underclassmen working together, and it all starts at practice.
“Starting off practices with prayer, we say ‘1-2-3, family, 4-5-6, state,’” King said. “Since Day 1, we’ve been doing that. [The supersectional win], it shows that my dreams are getting closer. I have to finish this.”
In Blooming Central, the Knights will face a team that relies heavily on three-point shooting. The Saints pack quite the one-two offensive punch in senior guard Nick Norton (17.5 points, 62 three-pointers) and Jake Reinhart (16.3 points, 65 three-pointers).
Bloomington Central has shot 208-for-524 as a team from three-point range.
“We have to have laser-like focus,” Lilly Jr. said. “We have to stay humble, but be hungry at the same time. If we believe in each other, do what we’ve done all season, we should take first place. That’s the goal.”