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Title bid falls short, 43-39

Erik Boal

It was a scenario Andrew Bencze would have welcomed any day of the

week, especially in Saturday night’s showdown with L.A. Windward,

with a share of the Liberty League girls’ basketball title on the

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line.

The Providence High coach had leading scorer Selina Tech on the

left wing with an unguarded three-pointer with 10 seconds left and a

chance to shoot down the No. 2-ranked team in CIF Southern Section

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Division IVA, which was clinging to a two-point lead.

But Tech’s shot, just like 41 others the Pioneers attempted before

her potentially game-winning attempt, couldn’t find the bottom of the

basket, leaving Bencze to contemplate what could have been.

Despite a great deal of determination, hustle and resolve,

Providence couldn’t compensate for 25 turnovers and a 12-of-54

(22.2%) shooting effort -- including 19 straight misses in the second

half -- as it fell, 43-39, at home.

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“This is a tough way to decide a league title,” said Bencze, whose

squad made just one of its final 22 attempts, including one of 15 --

a basket by Tech with 1:58 left -- in the fourth quarter.

“It’s frustrating because we’ve been waiting for this all year.

For our [five] seniors, this is everything to them and I wanted it to

be their game. But we just needed a couple things to go our way down

the stretch.

“But I would play that game again anywhere, anytime and put money

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on us.”

Although he remained optimistic about his team’s chances to secure

second place -- which the Pioneers (18-4, 9-2 in league) did with

Monday’s 48-44 win at Encino Holy Martyrs (16-7, 7-4) -- Bencze would

not have bet his team would struggled from the field against the

Wildcats (18-2, 11-0), who won their 19th straight league game since

losing at Providence on Jan. 7, 2002.

Despite scoring a game-high 18 points, Tech made only six of 27

from the field, which was only the beginning of the shooting woes for

Providence. The Pioneers endured a scoreless drought of 9:45 before

Natalie Guzman stopped a 12-0 Wildcat run with a pair of free throws

midway through the fourth.

Tech also ended a forgettable stretch of 11:39 in between Pioneer

baskets, trimming Windward’s lead to 40-37. But Providence only

managed two more free throws by Guzman in the final two minutes.

Still, that was enough to give Tech the opportunity to hit her

fifth three-pointer, thanks to poor clock management and similar

struggles from the perimeter by the Wildcats, who made just one of 14

shots in the final quarter and 15 of 49 (30.6%) for the game.

“They never gave up and they never stopped believing,” said

Bencze, who received 10 points and nine rebounds from Guzman and four

points and 17 rebounds from Megan Campbell.

“With this group of seniors, I’ve never questioned their

character, but we just didn’t shoot well, especially in the second

half. We also hurt ourselves by making a couple costly turnovers late

and in a one-possession game that just kills you.”

Hailey Dunham led Windward with 16 points, six steals and four

assists and Ali Landes -- who sealed the victory with two free throws

with 3.7 seconds remaining -- added 10 points and 11 rebounds.

The Pioneers conclude the regular season at 6 p.m. today with a

league game against Sherman Oaks Buckley at home. A win would ensure

Providence -- which finished third in 2002 -- a second-place finish

in league.

*

BOX SCORE

*--*

Windward 7 14 16 6 -- 43

Providence 7 29 5 7 -- 39

*--*

WINDWARD

Dunham 16, 6 steals and 4 assists, Landes 10 and 11 rebounds,

White 6, Zagelbaum 6 and 3 steals, Latimer 4, Faber 1.

* Three-pointers: Landes.

PROVIDENCE

Tech 18, Guzman 10 and 9 rebounds, S. Estreller 5 and 3 steals,

Campbell 4 and 17 rebounds, Tabrizi 2 and 10 rebounds.

* Three-pointers: Tech 4


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