BURBANK — The makeup of the current Providence High girls’ basketball team is different from the one that took the floor during the 2017-18 season.
Along with the graduation of some key seniors, the Pioneers also lost Liberty League Player of the Year and All-CIF Southern Section first-team player Melissa Zozulenko, who transferred to Harvard-Westlake.
However, Providence has a promising freshman in Jyah LoVett, the sister of former Pioneers standout Marcus LoVett, who played for St. John’s last season.
Burbank only lost one key player to graduation and has the luxury of having its best player back in senior Osanna Tirityan, a perennial All-Area and All-Pacific League player and former All-CIF honoree.
Tirityan wasn’t present Tuesday afternoon when the Bulldogs took on Providence in a Burroughs Summer League game and the Bulldogs probably could have used her.
LoVett scored all of her 13 points in the first half to pace Providence to a 38-17 win against Burbank.
The Pioneers hounded the Bulldogs with their patented pressure defense that resulted in 25 turnovers.
“Every team is unique and even if Melissa was still here with us we would be doing some different things,” veteran Providence coach Andrew Bencze said. “But the nice thing this year is that I have three guards that people can’t stay in front of and that makes it very difficult for teams against us.
“It’s because of that great guard play that allows me to do some things on offense and we can really spread things out and ultimately that makes us a better team.”
LoVett had two three-pointers in her 13-point effort to go along with three steals. Junior Nareh Agzaryan added eight points and five rebounds.
“We are bonding as a team and their arms have been wide open for me and they have been very welcoming to me,” LoVett said. “I really like playing the tough defense and I like getting the steals and going up the court.
“Hopefully, I can get better and I can break some of my brother’s records.”
The Pioneers, who won the Liberty League championship and advanced to the CIF Southern Section Division IV-A semifinals last season, made things tough on Burbank from the get-go.
The stifling Pioneers defense yielded 16 turnovers in the first half, which was played with a 20-minute running clock. The Bulldogs went long stretches without generating any offense, and Providence took advantage.
“When Osanna’s not here, it’s hard to replace a player, who averages 20 points a game for us,” Burbank coach John Wells said. “We are playing a lot of people and seeing where they fit in. Our skill level has to get better. But this game was good for us because [Providence] has a good full-court, man-press and teams that do that give us a little bit of a problem. For us to play teams that do that well is only going to make us better.”
Burbank began the game with a basket in the first minute by Jayla Flowers (team-high eight points and five rebounds) for a 2-0 lead. But then the Bulldogs went cold. Providence embarked on a 13-0 run, with all the points coming from LoVett, to take a 13-2 lead with 12:28 remaining.
The Bulldogs broke the scoreless string with a free throw from Emily Monterrey with 9:19 left.
Providence went into halftime with a 12-point advantage, 20-8.
Burbank cut down on its turnovers in the second half with nine, but still sputtered at times on offense.
The Pioneers increased their lead to 31-10 with 13:19 remaining when Haley Laca sank a basket on a pull-up jumper from the left side.
“I’m always excited about a new team and a new year because it’s always different,” Bencze said. “You’re never going to have the same team two years in a row.
“The nice thing is that I have been coaching here so long there’s a way that we do things and the kids who have been here before when the new kids come in they embrace them and they sometimes do more coaching than I do. Our returning players are already bringing our two freshmen up to speed and the young players are learning from them.”