WOODLAND HILLS — It was about what the Providence High girls’ basketball team learned — not the final score — when it took on St. Lucy’s in the War on the Floor Extravaganza.
Providence Coach Andrew Bencze used the experience to prepare his team for the playoffs where his squad will face more physical teams with a clear size advantage, like the Regents, who are more than two divisions higher than Pioneers.
The experience wasn’t pretty, as Providence fell into an early hole and lost big, 55-27, at Taft High Saturday.
“It’s a much more physical game in the playoffs and [St. Lucy’s] is a little bigger than us and a lot more physical,” Bencze said. “They’re used to playing under the basket and that’s what’s going to make us better. We just never really responded.”
St. Lucy’s, ranked sixth in CIF Southern Section Division III-A, picked up the commanding win after dominating the boards, 40-23, and benefiting from Providence’s shooting woes. Whether it was free throws, layups or jumpers, there just seemed to be a lid on the rim for the Pioneers, who are ranked third in Division V-AA.
“You don’t want to say, ‘We didn’t play well, that’s why we lost.’ Really, St. Lucy’s had a lot to do with how we played,” Bencze said. “But even when we ran the offense and got open shots, we weren’t putting them in. We couldn’t get anything going and, when we did, we didn’t get the results.”
The Regents (13-5) grabbed a 10-5 lead in the first quarter and added to it in the second, outscoring the Pioneers, 16-6, in the eight-minute span to carry a 26-11 edge at halftime.
St. Lucy’s built its lead by earning extra possessions, by out-rebounding Providence, 19-13, in the first half and forcing seven turnovers in the second quarter, which led to a number of easy layups. Brittany Young was the spark for the Regents’ second-quarter run, scoring nine points in the span.
The Pioneers (16-3) had chances at free points early, as the Regents entered the bonus 40 seconds into the second quarter by committing their seventh foul, but Providence missed five of its nine free throws in the quarter and was 11 of 22 from the line in the game.
Providence put a little something together in the second half, scoring 10 points in the third — a quarter high for the team. The Pioneers picked up a little momentum with a half-court press defense, which forced eight Regents’ turnovers in the third.
“At halftime we said we’ll find out a lot about what kind of a team we are,” Bencze said. “We can run away and put our heads in the sand because this team is more physical and a little tougher or you can use the two quarters to learn and get ready for the playoffs. I was happy with how they responded, but we still didn’t play well.”
The lead was increased to 38-21 heading into the fourth quarter, but it would’ve been worse if not for a late, short spurt from Providence. Down, 38-17, in the final two minutes of the third, the Pioneers notched back-to-back layups from Catherine Saint and Bea Benedicto.
Benedicto scored a team-high 11 points to go with seven rebounds, but it wasn’t enough to outdo St. Lucy’s balance, as the Pioneers’ second-highest scorer was Saint with five.
Three Regents scored at least eight points with Savannah Selby and Young leading the way with 14 and 13 points, respectively. Two St. Lucy’s forwards, Jackie Heron (10) and Gold Okafor (11) had double-digit rebounds.