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Led by Levias, Providence boys’ basketball clicks in opening CIF playoff victory

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Providence’s Bryce Whitaker takes off after stealing the ball from Tustin’s Ryan Stading during Wednesday’s CIF Southern Section Division III-AA first-round playoff game at Providence.
(Miguel Vasconcellos)

There’s plenty to draw from that might put the Providence High boys’ basketball team in position to win the program’s first CIF Southern Section title.

Throughout the season, Providence played a difficult schedule, won a league title and has drawn from last season’s experience of reaching a CIF championship game.

Now, Providence will look to put things together for perhaps another elongated postseason run. Providence turned to its powerful 1-2 punch to get things going this postseason.

Top-seeded Providence received 24 points and 12 rebounds from A’Jahni Levias and 19 points and three steals from Jordan Shelley to register a 66-41 home win against Tustin on Wednesday in a CIF Southern Section Division III-AA first-round contest.

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Providence (23-6) will take on host Portola on Friday in a second-round road contest. Portola defeated Dana Hills, 62-52, in its opening-round win.

Providence, which reached the Division IV-A championship game last season, held Tustin (19-11) in check. The Pioneers limited the Tillers to 31 points over the last three quarters.

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Providence’s Braxton Williams looks for an open player during Wednesday’s CIF Southern Section Division III-AA first-round playoff game against Tustin at Providence. (Photo by Miguel Vasconcellos)
(Miguel Vasconcellos/Burbank Leader)

“We’ve been learning all season from our experiences,” said Providence coach Brandon Lincoln, whose team won the Prep League championship for the second season in a row. “We’ve played a very hard nonleague schedule and tournaments and we have a team that’s got a lot of energy. We’re just trying to recreate that energy.

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“We’re going to do everything possible to extend our season.”

Levias set the tone for the Pioneers, who are the top seed for the second postseason in a row.

Levias, a center, had 12 points and eight rebounds in the first half to help Providence jump out to a 31-14 halftime lead. Providence led Tustin, which posted a wild-card win against Lakewood on Tuesday, 14-10, after the first quarter.

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Providence’s Jordan Shelley takes the ball past Tustin’s Jason Naranjo during Wednesday’s CIF Southern Section Division III-AA first-round playoff game at Providence. (Photo by Miguel Vasconcellos)
(Miguel Vasconcellos/Burbank Leader)

“We saw a little bit of film on Tustin from its last game,” Levias said. “So, we knew some of the things that they like to do.

“I think playing a tough schedule got us ready for a team like Tustin. I felt like I was pretty much locked in and ready to contribute.”

Levias scored a basket to give Providence an 18-12 lead with 5:46 left in the second quarter.

He grabbed an offensive rebound and scored to extend Providence’s lead to 37-14 with 5:53 to go in the third quarter.

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Shelley finished with 11 second-half points for Providence.

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Providence’s Jordan Shelley goes to the hoop past Tustin’s Jason Naranj during Wednesday’s CIF Southern Section Division III-AA first-round playoff game at Providence. (Photo by Miguel Vasconcellos)
(Miguel Vasconcellos/Burbank Leader)

“Our defense did a great job and that led to us getting a lot of transition points,” Shelley said. “Our defense can play quickly and it can make a difference.

“We’ve learned that the playoffs is about endurance. We’ve learned that we need to be calm. We were focused in the first quarter and then everything really clicked after that.”

Providence received eight points from Braxron Williams and six apiece from Andrew Dabbaghian and Michael Joanou. Dabbaghian and Collin Ferrell each had three steals for the Pioneers.

Tustin, which took third in the Empire League, got 12 points from Jason Naranjo and 11 from Ryan Stading.
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