Trio still alive in CIF

A historic girls' basketball season is still going strong for a trio of area schools which have enjoyed deep runs in the CIF Southern Section postseason.

Burbank High, Bellarmine-Jefferson and Providence will all be in action with games tonight in their respective divisions. While the Guards and Pioneers take part in semifinal contests, the Bulldogs find themselves in a quarterfinal matchup.

Fresh from three straight home games to start the playoffs, the No. 3-three seeded Pioneers (25-4) will travel to Ojai to face No. 2 Villanova Prep (23-5) in a 7 p.m. Division IV-AA game.

This is the first time in program history that Providence has advanced to the semifinals.

Bell-Jeff (23-7) pulled off an upset in the quarterfinals to earn a spot in the final four. The No. 6 Guards will be on the road and will play against No. 7 Gardena Serra (25-3), which also enjoyed an upset win in the quarterfinals. The Division IV-AA game will be at 7.

Bell-Jeff is making its fifth straight appearance in the semifinals, something that has never been accomplished by any team in city history.

For No. 13 Burbank (18-11), it has earned a home game and will play at 5 in a Division I-A contest against unseeded Temecula Valley (15-15).

The quarterfinal appearance is the deepest a Burbank girls' team has advanced in the postseason

"It's awesome, and it's great to have three teams advance this far in the playoffs," Providence Coach Andrew Bencze said. "It's certainly a thing of pride for city of Burbank. I'm just really excited to be a part of it. It's a great time for basketball in the city."

If the Guards — five-time Santa Cruz League champions — hope to advance to play in their third CIF championship in five years, they will likely need a big effort. But Bell-Jeff proved it is capable of a big effort when it upended No. 3 Chaminade, 68-54, in a quarterfinal game Wednesday on the road.

Bell-Jeff senior point Guard Rishonda Napier, a four-year starter who has led the team in scoring this season, said her group is never intimidated playing on the road.

"No matter where we play, or what floor we play on, we just want to play together," said Napier, an All-CIF and All-State standout. "We just have to play Bell-Jeff basketball."

Napier scored 34 points to lead the Guards over Chaminade. Teammate Jasmine Smith, a senior, added 17 points and 11 rebounds. The duo has continued to lead Bell-Jeff this season.

Serra, the runner-up from the Del Rey League, comes into the game after an upset win on the road Wednesday against No. 2 Oaks Christian, 73-62.

The Cavaliers, who have won eight straight games and 16 of their last 17, have suffered losses against Long Beach Poly, Corona Centennial and St. Bernard, a team that also defeated the Guards. While Serra fell to the Vikings, 68-50, the Bell-Jeff was defeated, 71-58, in their game.

Serra boasts premier players in seniors Simone Thompson and Rejane Verin and junior Siera Thompson.

Providence, the three-time Liberty League champion, just survived its quarterfinal game Wednesday, coming back to earn a 56-54 win against No. 6 Mesa Grande Academy.

Bencze said his team should have its hands full with a Villanova Prep squad that tied for the Frontier League title. The teams played Jan. 28 in a nonleague game at Providence. In that contest, the Pioneers converted just eight of 59 shots and lost, 46-26.

"They are a good team and they have some good size inside," Bencze said. "They also have a couple of good guards and they're very physical. Honestly, I look for it to be a good, close game."

The Pioneers have accomplished players in juniors Bea Benedicto and Janel Adraneda, as well as freshman Katia Dabbaghian. Senior starter Catherine Saint, who injured her ankle during the final game of the regular season, is still hobbled and is doubtful for the game, Bencze said.

Villanova Prep also struggled to win its quarterfinal game Wednesday, eventually downing No. 7 Village Christian, 48-45.

Seniors Susanna Kolbeck and Natalie Miotti are talented players for the Wildcats, who placed fifth in the Southwestern League and earned an at-large berth into the playoffs.

After a slow start, Burbank – the runner-up from the Pacific League – was able to down host Upland, 62-40, in a second-round game Wednesday. Temecula Valley defeated No. 5 Diamond Bar, 57-33, in its second-round matchup.

The Golden Bears are paced by junior Iman Lathan, who averages nearly 25 points a game. The squad also has solid players in senior Olivia Thompson and senior Kaitlin Mathewson.

The Bulldogs counter with seniors Damarie Gonzalez and Sylvia Granados, as well as juniors Courtney Seidler, Aja Locke and Jamie Gonzalez.

"We are setting records right now," Burbank Coach Bruce Breeden said. "We just want to keep this going. I think we have a pretty good matchup. To get an unseeded team in the second round is very rare but to get one for the quarterfinals is almost unheard of."

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