BURBANK — For the Providence High boys’ basketball team, it was about redemption after its loss in the CIF Southern Section Division IV-A final.
The Pioneers had little time to wallow in self-pity, and had to regroup for the opening round of the CIF State Southern California Regional Division IV state playoffs against Division III City Section champion Roybal.
Providence regrouped from its finals defeat and came out strong to hold Roybal to one field goal in the first quarter while hitting their stride with an 18-point run.
The No. 2-seed Pioneers kept the lead the entire game, advancing to the second round with a 73-33 home victory Tuesday.
The win puts the Pioneers into the second round at 7 p.m. Thursday against visiting No. 7 Independence.
“We were focused; we were intense,” said Providence coach Brandon Lincoln, whose squad lost Saturday to Ribet Academy, 56-45, in the Division IV-A championship game at Colony High in Ontario. “This game was important and it showed. Coming in against a team that is undefeated and won CIF in their section, we didn’t want to take them lightly.
“Our guys know that even though we didn’t play the way we wanted to in the CIF championship, we still have an opportunity to do something special if we play the right way. Our challenge was to push the guys to be focused. If we play with focus and the way we’re capable, I felt we could have success.”
Providence’s focus held Roybal to its lowest scoring game of the season, having scored 42 points in its City Section semifinal victory against South East.
No. 15 Roybal (19-1) posted a flawless 19-0 record and were the only undefeated team in the Los Angeles area coming into a state championship first-round game.
The Titans defeated Sun Valley Poly, 51-47, for the program’s first-ever title in coach Danny O’Fallon’s second year as head coach.
“Kudos to Providence,” O’Fallon said. “I think they’re going to have a nice long run in the tournament. I wish I could say we got [win] No. 20 tonight, but I’ll settle for, before tonight, 19-0. I’ll settle for a league championship.
“It was one hell of a journey. We could honestly say, for four months, we were the only undefeated team in Los Angeles, as far as L.A. City Section is concerned.”
Pioneers sophomore Collin Ferrell led all scorers with 16 points, while senior Jonas Holt added 15.
Providence junior Bryce Whitaker added 10 points with five assists and five rebounds, junior Jordan Shelley tallied six assists and senior Kalil Washington recorded five assists and five rebounds.
The trio provided the fulcrum to the Pioneer’s first-quarter and first-half success and fueled the host’s early scoring runs.
Providence (27-7) quickly established itself with a 9-0 lead to start the opening quarter, but Roybal broke the drought at the 4:39 mark.
Shelley grabbed three straight steals and handed all of them to Whitaker to combine for six consecutive points to extend the Pioneers’ lead to 20-2 with 2:56 left in the first frame.
The Pioneers closed the first quarter on an 18-0 run to set up a 27-2 lead heading into the second quarter.
“[In the CIF Division IV final], we just didn’t bring it,” Shelley said. “We had some sort of brain-lapse that game, and coming into state, we understood that state is bigger than CIF [divisionals]. This was a bigger accomplishment we had to make.”
With the second unit on the court, the defensive pressure waned a bit, but the offense picked up its intensity as the Pioneers knocked down five threes in the quarter with a pair coming from Ferrell.
“We were actually trying to have our tempo and when they came with their tempo, it kind of threw us off guard,” O’Fallon said. “We did our scouting and all that stuff, and on footage and on tape, they don’t look that fast, so I think they surprised all of us. When we found out we had to keep pace with them, and knowing that it was their gym and that they can shoot in their gym, once they hit a first couple, I probably should’ve called timeout earlier.”
The Pioneers started the second half with a few miscues, but still established their presence and went on a 6-0 run to extend their lead to 57-18.
Roybal cleaned up some of its turnovers, but still couldn’t hit shots, even on put-back attempts after grabbing five offensive rebounds in the quarter.
“They definitely were fighting for a cause,” Shelley added. “They were definitely an emotional team. They were talking all the way through. We had to fight for it. To really put it, I think our team played as a team and not individually at all, and when we do that, we win games.”
Despite its lowest quarter of the game, the Pioneers still had a sizable lead, 61-23, at the end of the third quarter.