Clarksville turns back Providence for Paoli Sectional title

Clarksville took it to arch-rival Providence early then withstood a furious rally to win 41-32 and capture its second consecutive Class 2-A sectional championship on Saturday at Paoli High School.

“It was kind of a mirror of our game against them in January,” Generals head coach Jason Connell said of the previous game that Clarksville won by an identical score. “I knew they would come back, and we didn’t take care of the basketball very well there for a while tonight.”

They took care of business at the free-throw line, though. The Generals (21-2) scored their last 10 points from the line to stave off the Pioneers (15-7), who had cut a 29-12 deficit to 35-29 in the final three minutes.

Grant Goad’s transition 3-pointer rimmed out at that point, and Providence never got closer.

The game was tight in the first quarter, with the teams trading baskets from start to finish. Clarksville entered the second quarter with an 8-6 lead and created separation early, limiting the Pioneers to one point.

Nothing could cool down Clarksville — not even a fire alarm that halted play — and they took a 21-7 lead into the locker room.

It got worse for Providence before it got better. Calvin McEwen’s drive for two of his game-high 14 points gave the Generals a 29-12 advantage late in the third period.

But 3-pointers by Juston Betz and Brock Hayden to finish the period started a 10-0 run that brought the Pioneers to within seven.

McEwen’s senior leadership took over, as he hit a layup and then two free throws to keep his team in front.

Goad hit a three to make it 35-29, and almost another following a steal, but it wouldn’t go down.

“They really worked hard to get themselves back in the game,” said Providence head coach Lou Lefevre. “We got in such a hole and were scrambling to get back. We did everything we could and maybe if a few things went a different way we could have, but they’re a great team, and congratulations to them.”

Clarksville will face Austin in the first round of the Southridge Sectional. Connell, who took Clarksville to its first sectional since 1986 last season, said he learned a lot from that experience.

“We’re going to be better prepared,” he said. “I think when you go for that first time you’re happy to be there. It feels great to go back again. These kids worked so hard for this, and there’s no better feeling than winning the regional, except maybe winning the sectional. It’s just an awesome, awesome feeling.”

Aside from McEwen’s contribution, Clarksville got 11 points from Dominic Coleman, including six from the free-throw line in the final period.

The Generals also got six points from Andrew Jones.

Providence was paced by Nick Hayes, who scored eight points inside, as well as six points each from Brock Hayden and Ben Shahroudi.

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