PEORIA, Ill. — Basketball is a game of runs and the peaks and droughts that happen to the best of teams. Providence-St. Mel survived a slow start and appeared poised to play for its first state championship in three decades.
In six minutes, everything changed for the worse and the Knights became an errant group, unable to score or slow down Bloomington Central Catholic.
Providence-St. Mel fell into a slippery slope as the Saints opened the second half with a 13-2 run that proved insurmountable as the Knights fell 51-45 in a Class 2A state semifinal at Carver Arena Friday night.
The Knights (25-7) will play for third place Saturday against PORTA.
“In the first half, even though we were down two and we weren’t playing as well as I’d like, I thought we were still in the game,” Providence-St. Mel coach Tim Ervin said. “They hit us with that run and we came back, but it took a lot of energy and we just couldn’t finish.”
Knights guard Tevin King scored a game-high 18 points and nearly willed Providence-St. Mel back from the 13-point third-quarter deficit. He scored six points in the final two minutes of the third quarter as the Knights responded with an 8-2 surge.
But Central Catholic’s Nick Norton (16 points, seven assists) nailed a jumper and finished on the break as the Saints (26-6) extended the lead to 44-36. Jake Reinhart added nine points for the Saints.
King refused to quit, and repeatedly slashed and got to the rim. His tough fadeaway on the right baseline pulled the Knights within 45-41 with just under a minute remaining.
Tyler Turner contributed eight points for the Knights. Providence-St. Mel shot just 34 percent (15-of-44). “We missed a lot of shots that we normally make,” Ervin said.
King said the Saints’ aggressive strategy of half-court pressure and help defense stymied the Knights.
“I tried to penetrate and find the shooters, but they did a good job with helpside defense and I just couldn’t get free,” King said.
The Knights fell behind by seven at the start of the game though King orchestrated a spirited push. He drilled a three-pointer from the left wing that gave the Knights their first lead, 14-13, at the end of the quarter. Providence-St. Mel managed just nine points in a nearly 10-minute stretch midway through the second quarter and into the third quarter.
“We’ve really picked up our defense, and that’s just the way we’ve played this tournament,” Norton said. Guard Austin Holman (12 points) scored seven straight points during the 13-2 third quarter blitz for the Saints.
“We settled for too many jump shots, especially in the first half, and we needed to attack the basket more, which we did more in the second half,” Ervin said.
Providence-St. Mel shot just 2-for-13 on three-pointers and missed seven free throws.