Boys Basketball: Providence has Lemont’s number
By Dick Goss firstname.lastname@example.org March 3, 2012 12:16AM
Providence's Kevin Kozan (35) and Joe Batis celebrate after the Cektics' regional final win over Lemont. | Larry Kane~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: April 5, 2012 8:23AM
When Lemont rallied from a 39-23 halftime deficit to tie the game at 50 with 4 minutes, 18 seconds left, it looked for all the world that the Indians’ Cinderella season would continue.
But Providence, which had played a near-perfect first half, rediscovered the magic and rolled to a 63-53 victory Friday night in the championship game of the Class 3A Providence Regional.
The Celtics (17-10) will play Tuesday night against Hillcrest in a Rich East Sectional semifinal.
“My goal was return this program to the glory days,” second-year coach Tim Trendel said. “We have all those banners in the gym for other sports, but people forget there was a basketball tradition here.
“You saw Pat Sullivan, Frank Palmasani and Walter Downing sitting here tonight. They are the ones who built the tradition. Tonight, we took the first step toward what we want to accomplish.”
When Lemont (25-3) outscored Providence 16-4 in the third quarter and drew even midway through the fourth, the Celtics seemingly were reeling.
However, point guard Kevin Kozan (game-high 23 points) hit a three-pointer from the top of the key, Lemont misfired on the next few possessions, freshman Miles Boykin (10 points, 11 rebounds) stepped up and a good percentage of the packed house began to celebrate.
“They made a nice run in the second half and then we made a better run,” Kozan said. “They have great players, especially (Juozas) Balciunas and (Joe) O’Brien.
“But we were prepared this time to attack their weakness (Lemont beat Providence 70-65 on Jan. 24).”
“I thought when it got to 50, it would be a basket-for-basket game,” Indians coach Rick Runaas said. “But they executed better than us down the stretch.
“We thought we would be OK even when we fell behind at halftime. We cranked up the energy on defense and got back in it. But they solved our pressure this time, and they were able to play at a tempo we weren’t sure they could play at.”
Both coaches mentioned the key role played by 6-foot-8 Providence center Mike Marietti, especially in the first half. He made 8-of-10 shots in all, scored 17 points and grabbed seven rebounds. Boykin had six points and eight rebounds in the fourth quarter alone, when he relieved a tired Kozan from guarding Balciunas. Kozan played all 32 minutes.
“A month ago, we would have folded when they came back,” Trendel said. “But Kevin (Kozan) did a great job on Balciunas and with his leadership. He proved once again that he is one of the better players in the area.”
Balciunas, who leaves today for two weeks with the U19 Lithuanian National Team, scored 20 points and O’Brien had 14. Matt Lipowski grabbed 10 rebounds.
Runaas said Balciunas would have gone to play with the Lithuanian team regardless of Friday night’s outcome.
And yes, on a night when the atmosphere was perfect for basketball, Balciunas did hear the chant from the Providence student section: “USA, USA ... ”