EL SEGUNDO — The gritty start to the CIF Southern Section Division IV-A boys’ basketball quarterfinal at the newly established Wiseburn-Da Vinci gym caused trouble early on for No. 1 Providence High.
The Pioneers trailed early, but regrouped on a number of key rebounds from senior Jonas Holt that sparked the offense to pull ahead late in the opening quarter.
Providence junior Jordan Shelley then started to convert his shots and that propelled the Pioneers on a scoring run to close the half with an 11-point lead.
Providence stayed in the groove for the remainder of the second half and posted a 75-49 victory at Wiseburn-Da Vinci on Thursday to advance to the semifinals.
“I knew they had size,” Providence coach Brandon Lincoln said. “I knew they were physical and athletic, so I wanted our guys to understand how important closing out possessions with rebounds were.
“We can’t get them to miss a shot and run away with it. We had to make sure we close it out when we got the ball with two hands and secured it and got back to our end to hopefully make some plays.”
The Pioneers (25-6), the Prep League champions, head back to the divisional semifinals for the first time since 2013. Providence will be at home at 7 p.m. Saturday to take on Orange Vista (22-7), the runner-up from the Sunbelt League. Orange Vista defeated Patriot, 65-62, in its quarterfinal Thursday.
Wiseburn-Da Vinci, the Mulholland League runner-up, was making its second quarterfinal appearance in the program’s four-year history.
The Wolves (13-11) advanced to the Division V-A quarterfinals last season before they were bumped up a division this year, turning aside St. Monica Academy and Hesperia Christian to advance to Thursday’s game.
Shelley led the Pioneers with 28 points with six rebounds, while Holt recorded 13 points, 13 rebounds and eight assists with four three-pointers made.
Providence junior Bryce Whitaker added 12 points and eight assists and senior Kalil Washington scored 10 points and pulled down eight rebounds.
“Kalil Washington and Jonas Holt did a great job of carrying us today,” Lincoln said. “Jordan Shelley got hot and made some plays. A’Jahni Levias got in a bit of foul trouble and wasn’t able to make his impact on the game, but we had some guys step up.
“When we’re a team like this, our message before the game was to stay together and I think our guys did a good job of that.”
The Pioneers struggled with early foul trouble but were able to establish an 8-3 lead in the opening minutes of the quarter.
Though shots weren’t falling for Providence, Whitaker hit back-to-back baskets midway into the quarter to know the score at 8 with 3:42 left in the period.
The Pioneers pulled to a four-point lead with five seconds left in the opening quarter, but a long three-pointer from Wolves forward Jayce Johnson made it just a 19-18 Providence lead.
Holt made big shots and key passes down the stretch of the second quarter to put the Pioneers on a 9-0 run and set up a 38-27 lead at the half.
“Coach always tells us to be scrappy on the glass and always look for a second chance,” Holt said. “When you get second-chance points, something good always happens.”
Then it was like clockwork in the third quarter: Holt grabbed a rebound, made a run down the court and handed it off to Shelley for a three-pointer or a drive to the basket for a three-point play.
“We came to this game kind of upset that we had to drive for an hour-and-a-half, so we just wanted to get to the end and this is our third playoff game,” said Shelley, who put up 13 points in the second quarter and 12 in the third. “Every game we come into, at this point, we have the mindset to put the team away early.”
The Pioneers pulled away midway in the third quarter on a 13-1 run that lasted 2 minutes, 34 seconds for a 56-34 lead.
“We don’t have a deep bench,” Wiseburn-Da Vinci coach Kevin Rudd said. “I probably have six or seven players, at most, but when I have two starters in foul trouble, it kind of set us back, but we were only down 11 at halftime. This has been the problem all season. We look like two different teams at halftime. In the third quarter, it got away from us.
“[I told them that] we had to win the third. We were only down by 11, but you have to win the third. If we don’t win the third, we’re going to make it an uphill battle and we’re not that kind of basketball team. I’m proud of my kids.”
The Pioneers ended the third quarter with a 61-37 advantage, but the Wolves clawed back midway through to cut the lead to 23.