ONTARIO — An incredible journey throughout the CIF Southern Section Division IV-A playoffs proved to be bittersweet for the Providence High boys’ basketball team.
Looking to win the program’s first basketball title and the school’s first crown in any sport since 1986, Providence used substantial scoring outbursts and dominated with its rebounding to get to the championship game.
Those strengths were weakened significantly Saturday, however, as top-seeded Providence couldn’t get on track, and the result was a 56-45 defeat against No. 2 Ribet Academy in the championship contest at Colony High.
“It was definitely one of our goals just to get here and we did a lot of things well,” Providence second-year coach Brandon Lincoln said. “It’s a great opportunity just to get to the finals.
“Ribet did a lot of things well, like outrebounding us, and we couldn’t get on a run until the fourth quarter. We had plenty of chances and we just couldn’t convert. We made a late run and Ribet would get the lead back up to 10 points.”
Ribet (26-2) outrebounded Providence (26-7) by a margin of 41-29. The Pioneers, who won the Prep League championship in their first season after being in the Independence League, yielded 13 offensive rebounds to the Fighting Frogs.
Ribet’s aggressiveness made things tough on Providence, which made its first finals appearance since falling to Holy Martyrs in the Division V-A title game in 2012.
“We tried to stay with them and we did for the first quarter,” said Providence’s Bryce Whitaker, who finished with nine points and three steals. “We had some turnovers and they took advantage of them for most of the rest of the game.”
Ribet, which won its first CIF crown since 2010, saw Providence pull to within 47-42 on a basket by A’Jahni Levias (six points and nine rebounds) with 3:54 left in the fourth quarter.
The Frogs, who won the Harbor League title and extended their winning streak to 20, responded with a free throw from Yutto Williams, followed by baskets from Emmanuel Rodriguez and Snookey Wigington (game-high 17 points) to make it 52-42 with 2:14 to go.
“Snookey is a great player and he brings a little bit of everything,” said Ribet coach Reggie Howard, who received 15 points, seven rebounds and six steals from Tyler Powell and seven points from Ignacio Camacho. “Defense has been the key to our success and we got some turnovers.
“Providence has a good coached team. I’m pleased that we are a CIF champion because [the opportunities] don’t happen to often.”
Providence had 19 turnovers and Ribet finished with 18.
Providence struggled at the free-throw line, making just five of 16 attempts. Ribet, which held a 30-16 halftime lead and a 41-32 advantage after the third quarter, converted nine of 14 shots from the line.
Jonas Holt led Providence with 14 points and teammate Jordan Shelley added eight points, five assists and three steals.
“We got off to a good start on our first couple of possessions,” Shelley said. “We were playing with confidence and being aggressive.
“Then we had trouble and we fell behind. It was great to come out and play in a championship game in front of our fans. I just wish we could have had a better result.”
Providence defeated Foothill Technology, Pomona, Wiseburn-Da Vinci and Orange Vista to advance to the title game. Ribet bested Katella, La Verne Calvary Baptist, Southlands Christian and Ontario Christian before turning back Providence.
Providence and Ribet will next participate in the state playoffs, which are scheduled to begin Tuesday.