Down by 10 points at halftime in the finals of the Warwick Beacon Holiday Classic against Providence Country Day, the Pilgrim boys’ basketball team still had a realistic chance to claim the title.
Seven minutes later, that chance was gone.
PCD went on a 28-0 run to open the second half, quickly turning a 33-23 lead into 61-23. That sealed Pilgrim’s fate, as the Knights went on to win 75-43 and claim their third consecutive Beacon Classic championship.
Tom Horvat took home tournament MVP honors, as he led the Knights with a combined 57 points over two days.
“We love to come here because it’s close and we get a chance to practice and try to get ready and the teams are all competitive,” PCD head coach Tom Sienkiewicz said. “It’s a good test.”
PCD had beaten Toll Gate 60-48 the day before, while Pilgrim had defeated Warwick Vets 66-37. Both teams were playing well heading in, and they continued that trend with a competitive first half.
Then the Knights flexed their muscles.
Pilgrim committed eight turnovers and missed 12 consecutive shots during the first seven minutes of the first half. The Pats also missed two free throws.
The Knights, meanwhile, were hitting on all cylinders. They got a layup on their first possession from Ricky Pacia, before Pacia converted a runner two possessions later.
After two trips down the floor with no points, PCD scored on eight consecutive possessions. Horvat led the way, as he hit two three-pointers and scored 12 points during that span. Then, after coming up empty on one possession, the Knights scored three more times in a row, finishing the run with a layup by Justin Fornes.
Just like that, Pilgrim’s 10-point deficit was 38.
“I think we didn’t get back in transition,” Pilgrim head coach Mike Batalon said. “PCD got some easy baskets. We missed some easy shots and it kind of snowballed from there.”
With nine minutes to play, Pilgrim’s Ryan Morris hit two free throws to give the Pats their first points of the half. That actually started a 9-2 run for Pilgrim, but it was far too little, too late at that point.
The Knights had already subbed out most of their starters, as the outcome was no longer in doubt.
“At halftime we just wanted to keep playing hard defense and work the ball inside,” Batalon said. “To PCD’s credit, they came out on fire in the second half and took us out of the game.”
In the first half, PCD started strong as well, taking an 8-0 lead on four points by Marquis Harper, two by Horvat and two by Nick DeBlasio. Soon after that, it was 16-6.
But the Pats kept it close, using a 10-1 run to get within 17-16. They were within one as late as 21-20 before PCD closed on a 12-3 run to grab that 10-point lead at the half.
Pilgrim was disappointed with how it finished the half, but there were plenty of reasons for optimism, most notably the play of Morris, a junior big man.
Morris scored 14 points in the first half, and was coming off a 26-point game against Vets.
“He had 14 in the first half, so it was a main concern to try to limit his touches,” Sienkiewicz said. “We tried to respect him a little more and really try to not let him get as many touches.”
In the second half, Morris had just two points, as Pilgrim struggled to get the ball inside.
“I think we just weren’t patient enough getting the ball inside, basically,” Batalon said.
With the Pats’ main offensive threat being held in check, PCD ran wild, with Horvat at the controls. He engineered multiple fast-break layups, and also hit five three-pointers. He finished with 28 points, on the heels of a 29-point game against Toll Gate.
“He shot real well yesterday, so he was looking for his shot instead of just playing and cutting,” Sienkiewicz said. “What he does real well is he cuts without the ball. Then he finishes – he’s a great finisher. He was looking for the three too much early, but then he came back and played a great second half.”
PCD also got strong performances from Harper, who scored 13 points, Justin LaRose, who scored 10 points and Pacia and Fornes, who each added seven. Pacia was named to the all-tournament team.
“I’m trying to get the other guys to step up – which they did – and try to score a little more on their own,” Sienkiewicz said.
Morris and Cole Furney were named to the all-tournament team for Pilgrim. Dan Colabella scored six points, as did Andrew Schoepher.
The Pats will now resume their regular season slate, and will do so with more confidence. They’re currently 1-3 in Division III-Central, and that record includes a 70-55 loss to Vets. They avenged that loss with the win over the ’Canes on Wednesday, and hope that’s a sign of things to come.
Their next game is on Friday, when they host Moses Brown at 7 p.m. Sienkiewicz, despite his team’s victory over Pilgrim, thinks the Pats are headed in the right direction.
“Pilgrim has been playing great – they played great yesterday and they’ve been playing better and better,” he said. “They’re just going to be a better team as we get over New Years and we get into the season.”