David Grigoryan was a sophomore on a 2015-16 Providence boys’ basketball team that struggled to a losing season, didn’t win a league game and was handily bounced in the first round of the CIF Southern Section playoffs.
In the aftermath of that disappointing season, Grigoryan was asked to step up and help lead the Pioneers this past season as a junior.
Grigoryan did what was asked of him and, under a new coach, helped Providence win the Independence League championship and advance to the Southern Section Division V-AA quarterfinals.
The league title was the first in five seasons for the Pioneers and Grigoryan was honored as the Independence League Player of the Year.
Earning spots on the singular all-league team were Providence junior AJ Bautista and freshman Bryce Whitaker.
“I don’t think we really expected to win league,” Grigoryan said. “But the more we started playing, the more we continued to go up and up and then we got to the point where we thought we could actually win it this season.
“We lost some seniors after last season. But we were able to come together and we really bonded this season and I think that is the main difference from last year. I never expected the transition that I had from last year to this year, but I’m glad it came.”
Grigoryan proved to be a consistent contributor for Providence, leading the team in scoring with a 13.7 points-per-game average and was also tops in rebounding (7.6). In addition, the junior averaged 1.5 steals and 1.4 blocks a game.
“We were a different team when David was playing and, particularly, when David was playing well,” Providence Coach Michael Westphal said. “When he was on and he was hitting his spots and knocking down his shots, we felt like we could beat anybody.
“When he would do his thing inside, that just opened up so many opportunities outside for the other guys to be able to knock down shots. Sometimes teams would be so focused on stopping him, that the other guys would benefit from that and make their shots. ... He is just a very versatile player and he just runs, runs and runs and he can outrun any other big.”
Bautista was second on the team in points with a 10.0 average and also averaged 2.8 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 1.7 steals a game.
“AJ just had tons of energy for us and he’s one of those kids who will just go until he couldn’t go any more,” Westphal said. “He was a player who just played within himself and did the right things for us. On the defensive end, he was quick and aggressive and he got his hands on a lot of balls and just created a lot of havoc.”
Whitaker averaged 9.3 points, 2.9 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.1 steals a contest.
“Bryce was just a great asset for us,” Westphal said. “We didn’t even know if he was going to be on varsity this year when we saw him in summer. But he just kept playing well and playing well and he more than earned his spot on the team. He just doesn’t make many mistakes and he had the best assists-to-turnover ratio for us.”
Providence went 19-9 and 10-0 in league. The Pioneers defeated Vistamar (76-62) in the first round of the Division V-AA playoffs before falling in the quarterfinals to Hesperia Christian (70-58).
“We lost some seniors after last season. But we were able to come together and we've really bonded this season, and I think that is the main difference from last year.
“I think we all had the same goal of hanging a league banner ... It feels great to be able to do that