Prior to the start of the season, Providence High girls' basketball Coach Andrew Bencze said he thought his squad had a good chance to vie for a Liberty League championship.
The Pioneers have not only done that, securing their third straight title with a 67-40 win against Yeshiva on the road Thursday night, but they have captured the crown in dominating fashion.
In eight league games, Providence (20-4, 8-0 in league) — tied for third in CIF Southern Section Division IV-AA — has outscored its opponents, 438-238. In addition, the Pioneers have held teams under 30 points five times and have scored more than 50 points five times.
The closest an opponent has come to defeating Providence was 16 points, as the Pioneers held off Yeshiva, 39-23, in the teams' first meeting Jan. 14.
"We keep saying we got one banner," Bencze said of winning the league title. "That's our first banner and we're very excited and proud of that banner. But it's not the only banner we want this year."
Winning the outright league championship in 2010, the Pioneers shared the title last season with Holy Martyrs. However, with one game left in the regular season Thursday against Buckley the Pioneers can claim the crown for their own this season.
It is the first time in 11 years that Providence has won three straight titles. Bencze coached the Pioneers to wins in the 1998, '99 and 2000 campaigns before leaving to study in London for a year. In his absence, Brian Fay coached Providence to a championship in 2001.
Because he anticipated the league would be down this year, Bencze scheduled some tough opponents for his squad in nonleague and tournament games. The opponents have included St. Lucy's, St. Genevieve, Villanova Prep, Providence Hall, Rio Hondo Prep and Los Angeles Baptist, all of which are ranked in their respective CIF divisions.
"Teams in the league had graduated some people, so maybe the league was a little down this year," Bencze said. "We kind of knew that we were going to have a good team, so we scheduled some nonleague games late against some top teams because we didn't want our team coasting into the playoffs."
In Thursday's win, Providence jumped out to a good start, which seems to be a reoccurring theme in recent games. The Pioneers took a 21-11 lead after the first quarter and enjoyed a 35-20 advantage at the half.
Bea Benedicto scored 20 points for the second straight game and teammate Janel Adraneda added 16.