"Turn out the lights the party's over....they say that all good things must end.
Call it tonight...the party's over.
And tomorrow starts the same old thing again..."
Willie Nelson (The Party's Over)
Ryan Fox ---@Scoop_Fox87
It was 10 years ago when the Providence College Friars (PC) made the big dance as a #5 seed back in the 2003-04 NCAA season as an At-Large Bid. Under head coach Tim Welsh and lead by forward Ryan Gomes, the Friars took on #12-seed Pacific. But the ball didn’t bounce their way as the Friars were knocked out by Pacific in the first round, 66-58.
Now back in the present, PC was bag in the thick of things in March Madness. Coming off an emotional win against Creighton in the Big East Tournament Final, the Friars were selected as the #11 seed in the East Region. Their first match up was against the #6 seed, the North Carolina (NC) Tar Heels in San Antonio, Texas
Going into this game, there were many questions for PC. Is fatigue going to set into the Friars after having their players play the heavy minutes every game? Will the Friars be intimidated by the prestigious history of the Tar Heels? Can Friars head coach Ed Cooley outcoach the legendary Tar Heels head coach Roy Williams? At 7:20 p.m. EST, those questions would be answered. The teams took to the court and got underway in the first round.
PC first got the lead at the 18:30 mark with a 7-4 score. But then the Tar Heels just showed why they were the #6 seed. A couple of quick baskets later on put them back up to 15-14 at the 14:23 mark and they didn’t relinquish it for the rest of the half. For the most part, PC kept it close under 10 points throughout. The largest margin for NC was 7 points with 1:15 left in the first half at 39-32. However the electrifying PC guard Bryce Cotton scored the final 4 points to make it 39-36.
Cotton had his usually first half shooting performance, scoring 3-of-9 for 11 points. This included a perfect 4-for-for from the line. Fellow Friars teammate forward LaDontae Henton chipped in 11 points on 4-for-8 shooting and led all rebounders with 5 for the half. Surprisingly enough, other than Henton and Cotton there were no other players to score in double-digit. Everybody on the Tar Heels’s side scored under 10.
The second half opened up with some stout defense on PC’s part that led to a quick basket in 30 seconds to cut it to 39-38 at 18:56. But just when PC was in reach, NC went on a mini 8-0 run to go as high as 46-38. Again it was Bryce Cotton leading the way for PC as he scored 5 consecutive points to get them back within 7 points, 50-43 at 15:39. It was under the 10-minute mark when PC pulled back within 2 points on another basket by Bryce Cotton, forcing Roy Williams to call a time out.
The time out did nothing more than delay than the inventible. PC again rode on Bryce to help get them the lead at 8:20, taking a 60-58 lead. They then got up as much as 7 points at the 4:34 mark at 71-64 as they seemed poised to run away with it like they did against Creighton. But unlike the Blue Jays, the Tar Heels dug in. A 7-0 run in the next 1:33 tied it yet again at 71-71 at the 3 minute mark.
Then from that point on, it became a see-saw affair. Every time PC made a big basket, NC came right back with one of their own. At the 37.5 second, Friars forward Carson Desrosiers missed a crucial basket that would have put them up by two. However Tar Heels forward James Michael McAdoo was able to get to the foul line with 3.5 seconds left, sinking the first free throw. He then missed the second free throw but was able to grab the offensive rebound, dashing all hopes of a PC comeback.
When the final buzzer went off, the score read 79-77 in favor of the Tar Heels. In his last game as a PC Friar, Bryce Cotton gave it all he got. He led all scorers with 36 points on 13-of-23 shooting and led all players with 7 assists. LaDontae Henton was also a major contributor, scoring 16 points and grabbed a game high 11 boards for the double-double. Forward Tyler Harris was the only other Friar to score in double digits with 13 points.
It was a season of ups and downs, of highs and lows. But if there were any concerns on how the Friars were going to fare in the new Big East, they were easily wiped away. Though things seem down right now for Friar Nation, the loss is just temporary. As it stands, the sky is the limit for Ed Cooley’s squad. Thank you for a memorable season, we hope to see you again in March.
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