PROVIDENCE HIGH — The Providence High girls' basketball team struggled mightily on offense Monday in the first half of its opening game of the 15th annual Providence Pioneer Shootout against La Reina.
Luckily for the Pioneers, as much as their shots weren't falling, their defense was able to step up, limiting the Regents' shots and forcing a multitude of turnovers that kept the hosts to within two points at the half.
Providence finally got its offense rolling in the second half. With the team's defense continuing to hound the La Reina ball-handlers, the Pioneers were able to come back to gain a 44-29 victory in the first day of the four-day tournament.
"I always tell the team each year that defense can get you through the times when your offense struggles," Providence Coach Andrew Bencze said. "It's never the other way around. But this has been a group that really struggled with defense, so it was nice to see when we needed a little bit of defense we could play it."
The aggressive Providence (6-1) defense aggravated and frustrated La Reina (2-6) throughout the contest, forcing 43 total turnovers. The Pioneers were relentless, which led to the Regents making bad passes and taking their share of forced shots.
Leading the defensive charge was junior Janel Adraneda, who had nine steals. Teammate Estelle Glorioso, a junior, added five steals and freshman Katia Dabbaghian and senior Catherine Saint added four each.
"Our defense is pretty much the biggest part of our game," Providence junior forward Bea Benedicto said. "We have some girls who can play good defense."
On offense, the Pioneers were paced by Saint, who tallied 12 points. Benedicto added nine and seven rebounds.
Despite forcing 20 turnovers in the first half, the Pioneers trailed the Regents, 22-20. Providence wasn't able to mount much of an offensive push, converting just six of 33 shots from the field in the first half.
"We lost nine players from last year, and sometimes I forget that," Bencze said. "This was an example of just our inexperience at the wing which caused some problems for us. We just didn't handle things as well as I would have liked."
But things changed for the better for Providence in the third quarter. The Pioneers were able to go in front, 23-22, on a free throw by Benedicto with 6:35 remaining.
While the defense was forcing 14 turnovers, the Pioneers' offense went on a torrid 14-0 run to take a 34-22 lead. It didn't help that La Reina missed its first seven shots from the field in the third and didn't score its first basket until Katie Gerbasi hit a jumper with 1:22 left.
Providence enjoyed a 37-27 lead after three quarters.
In the fourth, things went from bad to horrible for the Regents, who missed their first 11 shots. By that time, the Pioneers had built a 42-27 advantage. La Reina finally converted its first shot from the field with 1:12 remaining in the game.