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Pioneers lead CIF push

It’s been a good season for the Providence High girls’ and boys’ basketball teams.

Along with both winning Liberty League championships, the two Pioneers squads also garnered top-three seeds for the CIF Southern Section playoffs.

The Providence boys earned the No. 1 seed in Division IVA and the girls are No. 3 in Division IV-AA.

Including the Pioneers teams, seven area programs earned postseason bids, including Burbank and Bellarmine-Jefferson in boys and Burroughs, Bell-Jeff and the Bulldogs in girls.

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Having never won a CIF Southern Section championship in basketball, Providence and first-year Coach Ernest Baskerville said his group is eager to see what it can do in the postseason.

“I told the guys there are three parts to our season,” Baskerville said. “The [nonleague season, the league season and the playoffs. We are just hoping to keep up our passion to win and our resilience at the end of games.”

The Pioneers (23-4) will have to wait for their opening game, however, as they earned a bye for the first round which is set to begin Wednesday. Providence will play the winner of the Villanova Prep-New Roads game in a second-round contest at 7 p.m. Friday at home.

Baskerville said getting the first-round bye gives his team some time to get healthy, as Patrick Gonzalez is still nursing a sore foot and Kellen Smith has suffered from an injured knee.

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“It’s nice to have the extra time to get the guys healthy,” Baskerville said. “But we kind of want to go out and play, so the guys can get the jitters of being in the playoffs out of the way. But the fact that we’re banged up, we could definitely use the bye.”

The Pioneers have been led by freshman Marcus LoVett Jr., who is averaging 31.8 points a game. Along with Gonzalez and Smith, the squad also has talented players in Jonathan Ly and Christian Ware-Berry.

The Burbank (16-11) boys’ team, which originally finished fifth in the Pacific League, benefited from forfeit wins from Muir to earn the league’s No. 4 seed in the Division I-A playoffs. Muir lost its league championship after it had to forfeit 20 games because of the use of an ineligible player.

The Bulldogs will have to hit the road for a 7 p.m. opening-round game Friday against Chino Hills. The Huskies (17-10) are the No. 3 team from the Sierra League.

Burbank had solid payers in Andre Spight and Remy Youssefi.

The Guards (9-17) have a hefty task in their first-round boys’ game at 7 p.m. Wednesday on the road. Bell-Jeff will take on a talented Village Christian (24-2) squad that won an Olympic League title and is the No. 2 seed in the division.

Crusaders players Marquis Salmon, Bryan Alberts and Marsalis Johnson should be a handful for the Guards.

Bell-Jeff is an at-large team from the Santa Fe League.

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For the Providence girls’ team, it is coming off a season in which it won its third straight Liberty League championship. The Pioneers (22-4) will be at home at 7 p.m. Thursday against Arrowhead Christian Academy.

“The reward you get for winning your league championship is to play at home for the first round of the playoffs,” Providence Coach Andrew Bencze said. “They won league and not that it wasn’t challenging, but it was different than other years. I think they’re looking at the playoffs as an opportunity to go very far and win the whole thing. That’s the goal.”

The Eagles (11-12) earned an at-large berth from the Ambassador League.

The Pioneers have been led all season by Bea Benedicto, Catherine Saint, Janel Adraneda and Katia Dabbaghian.

Saint injured her left ankle last week and Bencze said she might be lost for a week at the least.

Bell-Jeff, the No. 6 seed, also earned a home game after capturing its fifth straight Santa Cruz League championship. The Guards (20-7) will take on Louisville at 7 p.m. Thursday in a first-round Division IV-AA contest.

Louisville (9-16) enters the playoffs as an at-large team from the Mission League.

The Guards posses a solid duo of Rishonda Napier and Jasmine Smith. Napier was been nominated as a McDonald’s All-American.

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A second-place finish in the Pacific League earned Burbank (16-11) a home game for its Division I-A first-round game. The Bulldogs will take on Fountain Valley at 7 p.m. Saturday.

The Barons (13-13) are an at-large team from the Sunset League.

“I don’t know anything about them,” Burbank Coach Bruce Breeden said of Fountain Valley. “I know some about that league and the game should be a challenge for us.”

Also in Division I-A, Burroughs has to hit the road for its 7 p.m. Saturday first-round game against No. 15 Paloma Valley. The Indians (12-15) won their final Pacific League game to finish fourth.

“We’re really excited that we were able to finish the league off and get ourselves to qualify without having to petition for the playoffs,” said Burroughs Coach Vicky Oganyan, whose team advanced to the quarterfinals last season. “The girls are excited about having the opportunity to play in the playoffs.”

Oganyan said she thinks her opener is a “winnable game.”

Paloma Valley is the runner-up from the Sunbelt League.


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