BURBANK — Most of the control was held by the Providence High boys’ basketball team in its nonleague game against Grant High at home on Saturday.
The Pioneers were playing the final game of their two-day Providence Pioneer Showcase, and the Lancers were looking to disturb the host’s stranglehold.
Providence had a slight hiccup in the third quarter, but held on to post a 71-51 triumph against Grant.
“My message to the team today was for everybody that comes in the game was focus on being the positive,” Providence coach Brandon Lincoln said. “[It’s] not just about coming in and trying to score, but it’s about defending and rebounding, communication and energy. I really liked the focus on our team."
The Pioneers (14-4) struggled to knock down their shots in the third quarter, whether it be long or short.
As a result, a once double-digit halftime lead dwindled to seven, 46-39, at the 5:39 mark in the third.
“It’s just the flow of the game,” said Lincoln on the third quarter. "When you’re playing a game and sometimes you have success early, it’s hard to keep that same level of intensity, and obviously, a team like Grant that is very competitive with really strong players — they’re going to come out and give us their best effort.”
In the third quarter, the hosts made one shot at 6:33 of the frame off of a Michael Washington post-up to restore a double-digit advantage, 46-35.
Despite the struggle, sophomore forward Collin Ferrell drained a three-pointer with 1:01 left in the third that was followed by junior forward A’Jahni Levias’ shot from three to make it a 56-43 Providence lead at the end of the frame.
“I think we came out a little more physical than they did,” Levias said. “With our shooting ability, we can stretch the floor a little bit than they can because they have their bigs. And when we don’t have our big on the court, we have the ability to stretch the floor more.”
Levias was named Providence’s player of the game after posting 13 points, nine rebounds, four blocks and four steals. Ferrell added 12 points.
“We just tried to keep our focus,” said Levias of the Pioneers’ fourth quarter. “Focus is our main thing that we talk about in practice, in games, before games — everything. Focus is what kept us going.”
The Pioneers had offensive contributions from junior guard Bryce Whitaker, who led the hosts with 14 points to go along with nine rebounds and six assists, and junior forward Jordan Shelley, who added eight points and 10 assists.
“[We were] just picking up the pace,” Whitaker said. “Usually, with our team, we like to run the offense in those situations, so I think picking up the pace and having transition points is easy for us.”
Whitaker and Shelley were instrumental in the first half, as both combined for eight assists (Whitaker with three and Shelley with five).
Their play helped Providence jump to a 9-3 start with three minutes gone in the first quarter as Whitaker scored five points during the span.
Grant (11-5) picked up momentum toward the end of the quarter with contributions from guards Erik Panosian and Dipa Salim, but Providence still closed out the first with a 21-14 lead.
Panosian led the Lancers with 14 points and Salim was named Grant’s player of the game as he posted 12 points, five second-half assists and five steals.
The Pioneers hit their stride in the second quarter as the hosts hit five of eight three-pointers and finished the period with six players tallying points.
“Our guys were ready to come out and compete,” Lincoln said. “We played in a very challenging tournament last week and we really got battle-tested. We had a lot of good examples to learn from that really challenged our guys to change habits and we did a better job as a team coming out trying to show what we experienced last week.”
Providence embarked on an 8-0 run between 6:05 and 3:31 in the second quarter to establish a 36-18 lead, before the Pioneers pulled away for a 44-30, halftime lead.
After their third-quarter struggle, the Pioneers couldn’t convert a basket until the 5:40 mark of the fourth quarter before the hosts hit a 9-0 run midway into the frame to establish a 69-49 lead with 2:59 left