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Looking Back: Providence excels amidst challenges in new league

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Coach Brandon Lincoln led his Providence High boys’ basketball team to a wealth of success during the 2018-19 campaign.
(James Carbone)

This is the latest in a series looking back on the sports accomplishments of the local high schools during the 2018-19 year. This installment is Providence High:

The Providence High sports teams endured a tough test during the 2018-19 school year, as it entered a new era in a different league.

After a successful time in the Liberty League, the Pioneers’ squads had to make an adjustment with a switch to the highly competitive Prep League.

For the Pioneers boys’ basketball team and the track and field teams in particular, Providence passed with flying colors.

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It was a wintertime treat as the Pioneers boys’ basketball squad stormed to the CIF Southern Section championship contest.

But to get there, Providence sprinted through the Prep League unscathed with an undefeated run that culminated with a league title.

Still hungry for more, Providence (28-8) enjoyed a lengthy playoff road to the CIF Southern Section Division IV-A championship game. However, for the top-seeded Pioneers, their quest for their first basketball title fell short in a 56-45 loss to Ribet Academy.

On its way to the title game, the Pioneers bested Foothill Tech, 84-45, in the opening round, Pomona, 77-64, in the second round, Wiseburn-Da Vinci, 75-49, in the quarterfinals and No. 4 Orange Vista, 73-54, in the semifinals.

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Behind the All-CIF trio A’Jahni Levias, Jordan Shelley and Bryce Whitaker, the Pioneers extended their season in the Division IV CIF State Championships as the No. 2 seed.

The team convincingly won their first two rounds of the state championship, but their run was halted in the regional semifinal at home against third-seed Silverado, 50-41.

The Pioneers defeated Roybal, 73-33, and No. 7 Independence, 64-58, to book a spot in the regional semifinal.

Shelley concluded the season averaging 16.8 points and five rebounds per game, Levias contributed 13.8 points and nine rebounds and Whitaker recorded 9.9 points, 4.6 rebounds, 5.1 assists and two steals.

Spearheaded by freshman standout Jyah LoVett, the Pioneers girls’ basketball team also enjoyed a playoff berth after a third-place finish in the Prep League.

Providence (16-13, 7-5 in league) reached the second round of the CIF Southern Section Division IV-AA playoffs, where it fell to Ramona, 37-30.

Lovett earned a spot on the All-CIF Division IV-AA first team, averaging 20.8 points, 8.6 rebounds and four steals a game in her first season. Senior Ariel Gordillo earned All-CIF second-team honors, averaging 12.4 points, four rebounds and 2.9 steals per game.

In the fall, the Pioneers saw decorated boys’ cross-country runner Nick Montijo become the school’s first athlete to qualify for the CIF State Cross Country Championships.

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Montijo, who transferred to Providence as a senior after the closure of Bellarmine-Jefferson High, had the biggest steps running for the Pioneers cross-country team.

At the Prep League finals, Montijo qualified for the CIF Southern Section Division V prelims with a third-place finish in 16 minutes, 1.61 seconds.

Although experiencing a minor shoulder injury, Montijo willed his way in the division finals with an eighth-place finish in 15:45.2, becoming the program’s first athlete to qualify for state contention.

With his eyes set on the state competition at Woodward Park in Fresno, Montijo clocked 16:55 for a 34th-place finish that capped his historic career.

For the girls’ cross-country team, senior Carissa Guardado led Providence with a 12th-place finish in 20:16.62 at the league finals.

Montijo’s efforts in the fall parlayed into great performances for the Providence track and field team, which thrived in the spring and had a successful day at the league finals.

The Pioneers boys’ track and field team captured its second successive league title, with a Prep League championship to go alongside their Liberty League crown a season earlier. Providence recorded 99 points and ousted Pasadena Poly (98) to end the Tigers’ Prep League title run for the league championship.

The boys’ team captured eight titles, including 4x100- and 4x400-meter relay crowns.

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Montijo added a Prep League title in the 800 event with a time of 2:04.61. He also finished second in the 1,600 (4:39.24) and the 3,200 (10:20.59) to be named league most valuable track athlete.

For the 4x400 relay, Montijo teamed up with Ryan Clemens, Bryce Whitaker and Diego Pieragostino to clinch a title in 3:42.18, while Whitaker and Clemens combined with Lucas Weaver and Jaden Baker to win the 4x100 relay in 45.13.

Clemens, a junior, added a league crown in the 110 hurdles (16.54), Baker won the 400 event (52.39) and Kieran Gehan was victorious in the 300 hurdles (42.25).

Whitaker’s impressive two-sport junior year was capped with a triple jump title with a leap of 42 feet, 6 1/2 inches.

The Providence girls’ track and field squad also made an impact at the Prep League finals, tallying 98 points to finish runner-up to Mayfield (179) at the league finals.

Pioneers junior Nadia Singleton was named the league girls’ most valuable track athlete with a first-place finish in the 200 (26.39) and a second-place time in the 100 (13.08).

Singleton also teamed up with Jasmine Monegalan, Gabriella Florian and Kristen Ayap to win the 4x100 relay (51.41).

With a successful stint at the CIF Southern Section Division IV prelims, the Pioneers marched on to the finals with a handful of athletes.

In the Divison IV finals, Clemens finished eighth in the 110 hurdles (16.34) and Gehan placed ninth (16.73) in the same race. Clemens added a seventh-placed finish in the 300 hurdles (44.22) and Whitaker placed fifth in the triple jump (41-5 1/2).

Also for the girls in the CIF finals, Nicole Rochart placed ninth in the shot put event (32-4 1/4) and the 4x400 relay team of Florian, Katherin Asryan, Singleton and Ayap finished ninth (4:16.39).

In the spring, the boys’ volleyball team finished runner-up in the Prep League behind Flintridge Prep and also made an appearance in the CIF Southern Section Division IV playoffs. However, the Pioneers (19-6, 6-2 in league) suffered a first-round loss in a sweep to Paraclete.

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