CHARLOTTE – Providence Day was in trouble when sophomore Bryce Scott picked up a foul jockeying for position with Covenant Day big man Thomas Hailey with 35 seconds left in the third quarter.
They led 22-21 at the time in a grind-it-out nail-biter, but with Scott on the pine, Covenant Day went on a 7-0 run to take a 28-24 lead with just under three minutes to go in the second-round NCISAA playoff clash on Feb. 6 at Providence Day.
Covenant Day super freshman Aden Holloway had just stolen the ball after hitting a 3-pointer and was racing unimpeded toward the basket when Providence Day’s Michael Zanoni hustled back and jumped at the rim to try to block the shot.
There was some contact. Holloway missed the layup but the Lions were there to clean it up for the 28-24 lead.
Then the whistle blew.
Covenant Day coach Matry Parrish picked up a technical foul contesting Holloway had been bodied on his shot attempt.
Zanoni sank both technical free throws and Providence Day scored on the ensuing possession, completing the four-point play to tie the score at 28.
Scott, who had to sit for much of the fourth quarter, scored on a set inbounds play to give the Chargers a 30-28 lead. With his four fouls, Scott was also instrumental down the stretch with his interior defense of 6-foot-6 Hailey and 6-foot-9 sophomore Ifeanyi Ufocchukwu, who led the Lions with 10 points.
“His defense and athletic ability are so special,” Providence Day coach Brian Field said. “He’s a rare athlete. I thought he did a good job of staying focused when he did pick up his fourth and then going back in and getting us great minutes down the stretch.”
Zanoni added two more free throws down the stretch as the Chargers used a 10-0 run to close the Lions out, ending their season with a 17-13 record with the 34-28 win.
“We knew wherever they put us, we were going to have to play someone pretty good,” Field said. “That was a good win for us. Our guys stayed together. We stayed focused.”
The Covenant Day game plan, which had foiled the Chargers already once this season in a 49-35 loss to the Lions on Jan. 24, was to slow the pace down and deliberately look for each scoring opportunity.
And they took it literally.
The score was tied at 5 after the first quarter and knotted at 11 at the half as the Lions took the air out of the ball on offense.
“They slowed it down the last time they played us here,” Field said. “It caught us off guard, and they thumped us. They beat us by 13 or 15. By doing that (Parrish) can take advantage of his height and not let us run as much.
“We talked about it at halftime. When we had our chances we needed to take them, but we didn’t want the pace of the game speed you up to where all of the sudden you were making bad decisions.”
Zanoni led the Chargers (13-13) with 11 points, all of which came in the second half. Scott had 10 points and senior AJ Ratchford added five points in the win, which moves the Chargers on to the state playoff quarterfinals where they’ll play at No. 1 seed Durham Academy (27-4) on Feb. 15 at 2 p.m.
The Chargers have just a .500 overall record, but they’ve got close losses to upper echelon teams such as Cannon, Greensboro Day, Christ School and Ravenscroft.
One of their worst defeats came at the hands of Durham Academy on Dec. 12 in a 64-45 loss, but there’s a silver lining. Durham Academy sophomore MJ Rice (team-best 18.5 points and nine rebounds per game) will not be in the lineup, making the Chargers upcoming test more bearable.
“The only team we haven’t played close is Durham and we play them Saturday,” Field said. “Their best player is out. They have a Team USA kid who is top 20 (rated recruit in his class) who has been out since December with a torn ACL so we’ll see.
“I was happy tonight. We knew it was going to be a tight game, and we had to make plays. I thought we did that.”