NEW LENOX – Since starting his varsity career as a freshman with Providence Catholic, Seth Cheney has shown he is a dangerous outside shooter with range that extends well beyond the 3-point line.
Now in his junior year, the guard is displaying an ability to hurt opposing defenses in a wider variety of ways.
“There was definitely an emphasis in the offseason to become a three-level scorer and not just be a 3-point shooter,” Cheney said. “It’s been an emphasis getting to the mid-range shot and getting to the hoop. I’m way more comfortable going to the basket now. It’s almost become my first priority now instead of shooting.”
Cheney hit only two 3-pointers Saturday, but he poured in 23 points to lift the host Celtics past rival Joliet Catholic for a 58-54 win.
“Seth has become a leader on and off the court,” Providence coach Tim Trendel said. “His game has matured. He knows when to shoot, when to attack the basket. It’s picking his spots. It’s like, ‘I’m going to go now but I’m going to get a teammate involved.’
“He keeps the team calm and collected. We talk about playing with poise and a lot of time he has to remind me to keep my poise.”
Bob Jenner added 11 points and eight rebounds. Max Clarke had seven points and six rebounds, Kyle Lipke contributed six points and 10 rebounds and Zach Ford chipped in six points for the Celtics (3-5).
Drew Wills led Joliet Catholic (3-4) with 17 points and eight rebounds. James Pilapil scored 11 points, Jayden Armstrong had 10 points and Owen Wiers added 10 rebounds.
Down by 11 points early in the third quarter, the Hilltoppers battled back within 39-33 by the end of the quarter. After again falling behind by double digits in the fourth quarter, Joliet Catholic rallied again.
“Our shots weren’t falling at the beginning of the game, and that’s why we got down, but we never gave up and we got really close in the end,” Wills said.
Wills and Pilapil had slow starts offensively but heated up for 10 and nine points, respectively, in the fourth quarter.
A 3-pointer from Pilapil pulled Joliet Catholic within 50-46 with 2:55 to go, but the Celtics responded with an inside basket from Clarke and a three-point play by Cheney.
“Before every game, we talk about just keeping our poise, keeping our head in it and playing our game,” Cheney said. “That’s what we do. That’s what we focus on.”
The Hilltoppers still did not go away. Another 3-pointer from Pilapil made it 57-54 with five seconds left, but Ford hit a free throw to seal the win for the Celtics.
Jenner knew Providence was ready to respond to all of Joliet Catholic’s comeback attempts.
“We just had to stay strong and just respond when they went on runs and not put our heads down,” he said. “We just had to battle.”
It was the third straight loss for the Hilltoppers, but Wills believes in his team’s potential.
“We have to stick together and just play more as a team,” he said. “I think we have a really good team that’s just falling short right now.”
Meanwhile, the Celtics have put together back-to-back wins for the first time in the second tenure at Providence for Trendel, who took over again this season after previously coaching Providence for eight seasons before leaving for Marist in 2018.
“Our theme for the year is ‘Do hard things,’” Trendel said. “In this day and age, kids don’t deal with adversity well, and they don’t know to react to setbacks. So we’ve focused on that since the summer.
“The kids, almost better than me at times, handled their runs well. We talk about how we’re going to get hit in the mouth and we hit back [Saturday].”