RICHMOND – The goal was within reach, three minutes away from the ultimate destination. With a five-point lead, with a berth in the Class 2-A state championship just a few possessions away, Providence was poised for a historic victory.
That dream faded, with an agonizing conclusion and crushing ending.
No. 3 Covenant Christian scored the final 11 points to wrest the semistate title away from the No. 8 Pioneers on Saturday afternoon, rallying for a 59-53 victory and a date against No. 4 Lafayette Central Catholic in the state final next week at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Providence (21-8) was so close, leading 53-48 after Hannah Wolford’s layup off a Lexie Libs pass gave the Pioneers their biggest lead. Nobody imagined that would be their final points. But the Warriors (23-5) refused to acknowledge that fate.
Rachel McLimore started the late surge with a three-point play, Kyle Bright buried a lead-changing trey, and the Warriors converted five free throws in the final 23 seconds while Providence misfired.
“The composure they showed at the end was a big maturity factor,” Covenant Christian coach Joe Smith said. “We were getting defensive stops and not panicking.”
Providence, playing in its second straight semistate, struggled to accept the result. Last year’s loss to Heritage Christian, the eventual state champion, was expected. This one could have gone either way, and the Pioneers were positive it was going their direction.
“This year is definitely a lot worse than last year,” Providence junior Claire Rauck said. “We had it and gave it away. They’re a good team, but I think we could have come out with this.”
Providence started out of sync, giving up 10 turnovers in the first quarter. Covenant Christian took advantage for a 28-21 lead midway through the second before the Pioneers started a fierce comeback. Libs converted a rebound basket and Rauck buried a trey as Providence scrambled within 33-30 at the half.
Providence finally took its first lead with an 11-1 run to close the third, and did all of that from the foul line. Cheyenne Brooks was 6-for-6, including a pair that gave the Pioneers their first lead at 41-40, and Wolford converted twice for a 45-41 advantage.
Rauck drilled a corner trey, Mia Fougerousse worked loose for a layup, and the Libs-Wolford connection worked for the 53-48 lead that had Providence within range of its first semistate title. That crown was ripped away. Providence could see the finish line but couldn’t get there.
“That wasn’t about being tentative,” Providence coach Brad Burden said. “We were doing everything we wanted, the ball just didn’t bounce our way. We’ve been in close games this season, and we were still looking to attack. In basketball with two good teams like that, sometimes the ball doesn’t bounce your way.”
Providence recovered from the sloppy start. Wolford scored 8 of her 16 in the first quarter to help the Pioneers wade through that mess.
“We got the worst quarter we could possibly play out of the way,” Burden said. “We were right there in the game. We had a chance to play our game. Even though we’ve been here before, when the lights go on, there are some jitters. Once we got settled down, we did a good job.”
Rauck added 12 points for the Pioneers, who were only 3 of 11 shooting in the final period.
McLimore paced the Warriors with 19 points, Sarah McLimore added 10 and Mikayla Cleary totaled 10.
Lafayette Catholic advanced to the final with a 75-63 upset of No. 1 Oregon-Davis in the northern semistate.
In the Class 4-A semistate at Richmond, defending state champion Columbus North (27-1) advanced to the final with a 55-48 victory over Roncalli. Maliah Howard-Bass had 19 points for the top-ranked Bull Dogs, while University of Kentucky recruit Lindsey Corsaro had 29 points for Roncalli.
Justin Sokeland can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
Semistate at Richmond
Covenant Christian 20 13 8 18 – 59
Providence 15 15 15 8 – 53
Covenant Christian (23-5) – Rachel McLimore 19, Sarah McLimore 10, Emma Cooper 2, Mikayla Cleary 10, Jacqueline Ryals 2, Kylie Bright 7, Jacalyn Halderman 6, Kaitlyn Luikart 3
Providence (21-8) – Claire Rauck 12, Lexie Libs 7, Hannah Wolford 16, Marissa Harnung 4, Cheyenne Brooks 8, Olivia Jenkins 4, Mia Fougerousse 2.
3-pointers – R. McLimore 1, Bright 2, Luikart 1, Rauck 2, Libs 1, Wolford 2.
Roncalli 12 9 11 16 – 48
Columbus North 14 10 14 17 – 55
Roncalli (24-5) – Rachael Titzer 3, Paige Saylor 11, Lindsey Corsaro 29, Ddaesjah Ely 5.
Columbus North (27-1) – Emily Kim 4, Imani Guy 7, Elle Williams 2, Maliah Howard-Bass 18, Paige Littrell 14, Kenzie Patberg 4, Nadia Lomax 6.
3-pointers – Titzer 1, Saylor 2, Corsaro 4, Howard-Bass 2, Littrell 2.