BURBANK — On a rainy evening in Burbank, the Providence High boys’ basketball team sort of let the gloom ease into its home gym as the Pioneers hosted Gabrielino on Wednesday in a nonleague game.
The visiting Eagles established a quick lead and simultaneously shut out the Pioneers in the opening minutes of the game, as the home quad tried to find its rhythm.
Providence eventually got on track and converted defense to offense in an 83-42 rout of Gabrielino in the Pioneers’ final nonleague contest before making their Prep League debut.
“We weren’t quite sure how good Gabrielino was going to be, but I definitely wanted to challenge the team to come out with a great defensive effort,” Providence coach Brandon Lincoln said. “We really wanted to bring the pressure full court and get a lot of bodies in. We tried to get guys a lot of opportunity tonight since they’ve worked hard in practice, so I wanted to give them some time.”
The Pioneers (10-1) — ranked No. 1 in CIF Southern Section Division IV-A — forced 15 first-half turnovers and went on a 21-0 run spanning the first and second quarters to lead, 36-15, early in opening half.
Providence started with a 9-0 deficit early in the game, before it matched Gabrielino’s run to tie the score at 9 with 4:51 left in the first quarter.
Lincoln’s team closed the first quarter with a 13-0 scoring streak, before a Gabrielino layup ended the Eagles’ scoring drought.
Another 13-0 run closed the first half for a 49-16 Providence halftime lead.
In all, the Pioneers outscored the Eagles, 49-7, after their 9-0 deficit.
“We’re set back by how hard teams are going to play us and I’ve been trying to challenge them to come out with more of a sense of urgency,” Lincoln said. “Once they see the team is going to attack us and press us, for some reason our team wakes up. I’d like for us to have that level of alertness right when the ball tips, but at some points in the first half, we’ve been getting lucky and we’ve been able to respond to the challenges we face in certain games.”
The victory marked Providence’s seventh straight heading into the team’s first Prep League game against Chadwick at home at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.
“Hopefully we have confidence,” said Lincoln on the league opener. “We’re going to play a challenging game. [Chadwick] has been in that league for a while and we’re the newcomers. We definitely want to get off to a good start. Hopefully we show up and bring the same effort and level of intensity on the defensive end.”
Four Providence players finished in double-figures in scoring, led by Collin Ferrell with 18 points and A’Jahni Levias added 16 points.
“We always start our games out slow and eventually we huddle up and tell ourselves that we need to pick the ball game up,” Levias said. “We can’t be down like this against better teams, so we need to pick up the energy.
“We just have to work harder on slow starts. If we don’t start off slow, then we’re a pretty set team.”
Providence junior guard Bryce Whitaker posted four steals as he and four other players registered multiple steals for the Pioneers.
“We talk a lot and we tried to get in their head and as much communication to help us to confuse the other team,” said Whitaker on the forced turnovers. “I think we’re getting a learning experience and we’re coming together as a team right now.”
Providence settled into the second half.
The Pioneers outscored the Eagles, 21-3, in the second quarter, but the visitors gained traction on offense in the second half and posted 13 points in each of the final two periods.
Despite better offensive production, the Eagles (2-7) were still subdued by the Pioneers’ length in the post, as senior forward Kalil Washington posted four of his five blocks in the third quarter to maintain a 67-29 Providence lead heading into the final quarter.