When the going got tough for University High on Friday night at Providence Academy, the Junior Bucs got going.
Clinging to a three-point lead with 31â„2 minutes to go, the Junior Bucs made three straight defensive stops and later reeled off the last nine points of the game to take a 74-62 victory over the Knights.
“We just kept preaching to be solid defensively,” UH coach Justin Penley said after his team improved to 10-9 on the season. “We were able to get stops, get stops, get stops. We were able force tough looks and contest those looks, and get the rebounds.
“When they made a run at us, they were getting second and third shots. We stressed during a timeout how important it was to get bodies on all five guys, box out and get rebounds.”
With the defense in shut-down mode, Marcus Taylor gave the Junior Bucs firepower on the offensive end with a game-high 28 points.
“I just tried to play as hard as I could to get a win,” said the 5-8 sophomore guard. “It definitely wasn’t a one-man show. We were a unit, working together very cohesive.”
It was indeed the case as three other Junior Bucs ended in double figures. Joseph Phillips had 15 points, John Crowe totaled 13 and Seth Hilbert added 11, including a crucial pair of put-backs when the game was still in doubt.
“Seth had three huge layups, all three heavily contested,” Penley said. “His shots in the last minute or so were huge. Joseph didn’t have his best night offensively, but he made a key three when we were struggling.”
Providence (11-6) took the early advantage with Blake Tyree scoring his team’s first 11 points. He ended with 13 in the first quarter as the Knights held a 17-12 lead.
The lead was at 20-14 after a 3-pointer by Jake Weaver, only to see UH go to a full-court press and reel off eight straight points. The Jr. Bucs outscored the Knights 18-7 until the end of the half, with Taylor providing 10 of their points.
The Junior Bucs fended off a couple of Providence rallies in the third quarter, taking a 58-49 lead into the final period.
The Knights weren’t about to go away, cutting the deficit to just 63-60 after another 3-pointer by Weaver. However, they came up empty on their next three offensive possessions, which proved to be the turning point of the game.
“That was our chance to do something and it didn’t happen,” Providence head coach Martin Sells said. “The boys played so hard, but those are the chances you get. After that, it went downhill for us.”
Tyree was the Knights’ leading scorer with 16 points, while Maclain Grable ended with 14 points. Weaver with 13 and Kenny Quinn with 12 also hit double figures.
While the outcome wasn’t what he wanted, the Knights’ head coach couldn’t fault his team’s effort.
“Every night, we expect to go out and play well,” Sells said. “From where this team started at the beginning of the year to this point, they’ve come so far. I’m so proud of how they played tonight. We just wish we could have had a couple of those possessions back.”
University High (girls) 51
Providence Academy 35
Megan Blair paced Lady Jr. Bucs with 20 points, including two key baskets in the fourth quarter after the Lady Knights had closed within 10 points.
“Megan has been playing real well lately,” University High head coach Rayne Price said. “She did a good job of utilizing the ball fake tonight.”
Other players to reach double digits for University High were Taylor Treadway with 12 points and Barrett Wherry with 10.
The Lady Bucs improved to 5-14 with the victory.
“This time of year, I’ll take a win any time, any place,” Price said. “Traditionally, we’ve struggled in this gym. But, a win is a win. Anything you can build on this time of year is great.”
Natalie Smith led the Providence with 13 points, while McKenzie Trujillo ended with nine. Lady Knights head coach Mike Cash felt the game was determined by a first half which UH outscored his team 29-16.
“The first half, we made some mistakes that cost us,” Cash said. “That put us down. The second half, I felt would be close, but we had already dug us a 13-point hole.”