BURBANK — Freshmen Jyah Lovett and Audrey Sayoc led the Providence High girls’ basketball team on a mission to disrupt and unnerve any possible momentum Mayfield had.
Together, the Pioneers duo tallied 17 steals and combined for 40 points as they led the hosts.
The guards’ performance helped Providence to a 62-41 Prep League win against Mayfield on Thursday after a string of injuries hindered the Pioneers for much of the early season.
“We definitely wanted to make them play faster than they were comfortable playing,” Providence coach Andrew Bencze said. “We didn’t want to give them a moment of rest. We wanted to make sure they had to make a decision quickly and make it fast and we wanted them to play faster than they wanted to.”
Lovett returned to the court Thursday after she suffered a concussion in November.
“It felt really good,” said Lovett about her return. “I’ve been on the bench cheering my team on and to finally get out there, it feels like I’m back.”
Lovett led the team with 26 points and had seven steals and her compatriot, Sayoc, led the Pioneers (6-6, 2-1 league) with nine steals to go along with 14 points.
“It helped us gain more confidence,” Sayoc said. “Obviously, we would challenge them, but then it would be easy for us to encourage each other to do better.
“Now that [Jyah’s] back, we felt excited because we missed her playing, so it was an extra guard to help us pressure.”
Junior guard Ava Yood-Howard added to the Providence attack with seven steals, as Mayfield suffered 10 turnovers in the first quarter alone.
The game started out with a steal, as Lovett grabbed the ball, but failed to score on the turnover. However, she would steal the ball two more times a minute later and head to the line both times to give the Pioneers a 6-0 lead.
The quick pace shut out the Cubs for more than three minutes as Pioneers led, 10-0, at the 4:32 mark of the first quarter.
“I feel like it started with our chemistry,” said Lovett, who received her first collegiate offer from Long Beach State earlier this week. “[Audrey and I] know how each other play and we play very well together. We are pretty fast guards — we like to come at them first and don’t let them come back.”
The Providence dominance continued throughout the first quarter, which saw it build a 22-6 lead.
Mayfield (8-7, 2-2), however, quickly responded in the second quarter and went on an early, 10-2 run to cut the Providence lead to 26-16.
The Pioneers struggled to make a field goal until a Sayoc steal and layup ended the drought.
The Pioneers were able to stick with the visitors for the final two minutes of the half and took a 35-20 lead into halftime.
“They adjusted a little bit,” Bencze said. “[Mayfield coach] Kenny Fisher does a good job — I’ve known him for years — made some good adjustments, used their height well, but I thought, overall, the pace of the game and the pressure we put on them was the difference. They just couldn’t hold up against it.”
The Providence pressure didn’t come back until midway into the third quarter as the Pioneers saw their lead cut to 40-30.
Then, an 8-0 run sparked by Lovett put the hosts back in the driver’s seat as the Pioneers recorded three steals in two minutes and closed out the third with a 52-32 lead.