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Proviso East coach Donnie Boyce has spent much time leading up to this season reminding his Pirates that they’re not as good as their press clippings.
For the first few minutes of Monday’s season opener against Metea Valley at the Oswego Hoops For Healing Tournament, that may have been the case. But when the No. 4 Pirates settled in, the Class 4A state runners-up showed why they are poised to be one of the best teams in the state again this season.
The Pirates rallied from a slow start to cruise to a 74-45 win with five players scoring in double figures.
“I’ve been telling them that we’re not as good as everyone thinks we are,” Boyce said. “I’d rather have it that way. I didn’t like that we didn’t match their intensity (in the first half). I thought we were still in summer league mode. The good thing is that we are far from being a finished product. We have a lot of hard work ahead of us.”
Metea jumped out to a 9-4 lead in the first four minutes behind five free throws from Vin Patel. Boyce called a timeout to rally the troops, and the Pirates went off. They put together an 11-0 run in less than two minutes to take control of the game. Two lay-ups from junior Jevon Carter and five points from Paris Lee (game-high 19 points) fueled the run.
“It’s the first game,” said Carter, who finished with 17 points. “Everybody had those first-game jitters. Once we picked it up, we knew we would be fine.”
Proviso put the hammer down in the second, going on a 13-2 run to take a 35-15 lead with 2:20 left before the half. Metea put together a spirited run in the third to briefly get back into it. The Mustangs cut the lead to 44-33 with 2:28 left behind seven third-quarter points from senior Hayden Barnard, but Proviso put the game away with a dominant fourth quarter.
“It’s hard to run what we want to run,” Metea coach Bob Vozza said. “We’re playing a ton of inexperienced kids and it’s kind of baptism by fire against these guys. I’m proud of the way we came out in the third quarter. Hayden and Vin showed some flashes.”
Sterling Brown added 13 points, Kalin Fisher had 11 off the bench and Brandon Jenkins scored 10 for the Pirates.
Barnard and Patel scored 12 points apiece to pace Metea.