BURBANK — Looking at the results of Providence High girls' basketball team in its first two games of the CIF Southern Section Division IV-AA playoffs, it would appear the Pioneers won a pair of blowouts against weak competition.
The end results might justify that, as Providence won by 28 in its opener and earned a 25-point victory in the second round.
But Pioneers Coach Andrew Bencze would beg to differ. He contends that because of his team’s hard work and tireless effort, Providence just made it look easy, and the competition wasn’t as feeble as one might think.
The No. 2 Pioneers definitely made it look easy Wednesday in a quarterfinal game against Bishop at home. Once Providence got over an uneven first quarter, it was able to roll to a big lead and easily down the Broncos, 62-43.
“I think having the success that we’ve had in the playoffs this year is definitely a result of the fruits of our labor,” said Bencze, who led his team to a fourth-straight Liberty League championship this season. “We have played a very tough schedule and we’ve played some hard teams on the road.
“But there’s really something about the group. They have this kind of quiet confidence about them and I think they come into games and they know they’re prepared.”
The Pioneers (19-9) made school history last season by advancing to the CIF semifinals for the first time in girls’ basketball. Unfortunately, Providence lost to No. 1 Villanova Prep, 48-35.
Providence will get a second shot at the semifinals Saturday and will take on the winner of the quarterfinal between No. 11 Village Christian and No. 14 Frazier Mountain. If Frazier Mountain wins, the game will be at Providence, However, if Village Christian comes out victorious, it will host the contest.
“If Frazier Mountain wins we will be happy to be able to play at home,” Bencze said. “And if Village wins, we don’t have to travel too far and we’ve had some success in recent years against them.”
The Pioneers received a spirited effort from Estelle Glorioso, who had 14 points, eight rebounds and five steals. Teammate Katia Dabbaghian added 13 points and 11 rebounds.
The Pioneers reached the semifinals with another solid defensive effort against No. 7 Bishop (15-11), which included helping force 28 turnovers.
“The first thing we always stress is our defense,” Glorioso said. “That’s the No. 1 thing that we practice all the time. And we know that with our defense our offense will come along.”
The Pioneers forced nine turnovers in the first quarter, but only held a 17-12 advantage after the first eight minutes. Providence had problems containing Bishop center Brooke Callahan, who had eight points in the first quarter, mostly on lobs in the paint.
However, Callahan received her second foul at the 5:35 mark and spent some of the stanza on the bench.
Providence made its move in the second quarter and outscored the Broncos, 20-11. Bishop didn’t help its cause by converting just four of 20 shots from the field, as Providence went into halftime up, 37-23.
“We know that games are won in the backcourt,” Bencze said. “We knew they had to bring the ball upcourt to get it to [Callahan] inside. After she was getting those points inside you see we played a lot better in the later quarters of denying her the ball.”
Callahan ended the game with 15 points and 14 rebounds.
Bishop’s shooting woes continued in the third. The team made just two of 18 field-goal attempts and the Pioneers outscored their opponent, 14-5, and had a 51-28 advantage after three.
The Broncos trimmed the lead to 14 with 3:11 left in the game, but the Pioneers staved off the threat and closed things out.