Proviso East coach Donnie Boyce wasn’t on the sideline for the Pirates’ playoff run last season and Antonio Williams wasn’t on the team.
Boyce temporarily lost his position for an incident that occurred during his day job as a security guard at Proviso East. Williams was academically ineligible.
The band is back together now and the results are impressive. Boyce hit all the right notes with his substitutions and Williams stepped up in the clutch to lead the Pirates to a 74-69 win over Riverside-Brookfield in the Class 4A regional final at St. Ignatius.
“We lost early in the playoffs last year without me and [Boyce],” Williams said. “I made a few mistakes in the past and I had to make up for them. This means a lot to me.”
Williams, one of the season’s breakout stars, scored a game-high 25 points and grabbed eight rebounds.
“[Williams] has a strong will, a strong desire not to lose,” Boyce said. “This is his last year. One of the reasons he decided to come to East was the style of play and tradition and he wants to be part of the legacy.”
The Bulldogs (22-6) led 64-63 with 3:13 left in the game. Williams was not shooting the ball well, but still managed to take over the game. He drove to the basket and scored on consecutive possessions to give the Pirates (18-8) a 67-64 lead they never relinquished.
“[Boyce] kept pushing me, telling me to keep trying because it would eventually go in,” Williams said. “That’s what I had to do for my team to win.”
Tajuan Johnson scored 15 and grabbed five rebounds for Proviso East. Junior Tyler Chisom added 15 points and five rebounds and senior David Ewing had nine points and nine rebounds.
The bench was key for the Pirates. Junior Jamal Smith had seven rebounds and sophomore Quinlan Bennett played key minutes and finished with five points.
“R-B wasn’t really deep,” Boyce said. “In the first half I wanted to see who was a little nervous and who could accept this moment. I decided I loved the way the second group played in the second quarter so I stuck with them. I like to bring all my extra clips. I want all my ammo with me. We wanted to wear them down.”
Junior Jalen Clanton scored 20 for the Bulldogs and Skyler Nash added 15 points and nine rebounds. Mark Smith scored 11 and had eight board. Daniko Jackson scored nine.
“We don’t want to go home so we have to keep pushing hard,” Williams said. “We want to be the last team on the floor this season.”
Proviso East will play Kenwood on Wednesday in the sectional semifinals at Riverside-Brookfield.