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Jeff TullyIf he had his way, Providence...

Jeff Tully

If he had his way, Providence High girls’ basketball Coach Andrew

Bencze might change the name of the Pioneers’ annual tournament.

“Maybe we should call it the seventh annual Pioneer Third-Place

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Shootout,” he said. “Because it seems like we are always playing for

third place in our own tournament.”

That was the case Friday, as Providence was relegated to competing

for the third-place spot after a disappointing loss in the

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championship semifinals one day earlier.

However, the Pioneers bounced back with a steady performance

against L.A. Pilibos, downing the Eagles, 47-27, to finish third.

“We would have liked to be playing for a championship,” Bencze

said. “But it has been a trend that we are knocked out in the

[semifinals] and have to play for third place. But third place isn’t

bad at all.”

After losing to L.A. Pacific Hills, 43-25 in the semifinals,

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Bencze made sure his Pioneers (6-3) wouldn’t carry the disappointment

of the loss into Friday’s game.

“We talked about that in the locker room,” Bencze said. “I wanted

to make sure we didn’t dwell on the loss too much and bring that into

the game [Friday].

“But the girls really wanted to prove something. If we couldn’t

win a championship, they at least wanted to make sure they won the

third-place game.”

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The Pioneers had to accomplish that task without one of their best

players -- senior Talar Bouldoukian, who missed the game because of

illness.

Pilibos (4-5) was also playing without its best player -- Arlette

Vartanian. Vartanian hurt her back on Thursday in a championship

semifinal game against Calabasas. The Eagles lost, 69-33.

Providence came out inspired, as its full-court pressure pestered

the Eagles. In turn, the Pioneers were able to handle Pilibos’

full-court pressure and didn’t have a turnover in the first quarter.

Behind the play of freshman guard Heather Hansen, the Pioneers

kept up the pressure and held off all the Eagles’ threats.

“It was one of those games where we were able to keep a

comfortable advantage,” Bencze said. “Any time we were really

threatened, we seemed to be able to come back and score ourselves.”

Hansen finished with a game-high 12 points and five steals.

“Although she s only a freshman, Heather has played a lot of

basketball, and it shows,” Bencze said.

“She has a natural athletic ability and she seems to know what to

do, and she knows what I want, sometimes even before I tell her.”

Vanessa Arman scored six of her 10 points in the first quarter to

help get the Pioneers rolling.


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