PROVIDENCE HIGH — The Providence High girls’ basketball team wanted to come out and put pressure on Rock Academy in the first round of the Division V CIF State Basketball Championships.
The Pioneers accomplished that goal — and more — helping force 31 turnovers Wednesday in rolling to a 68-35 win in the Southern California Regional at Providence.
With the win, the fifth-seeded Pioneers (26-5) will play on the road in a regional quarterfinal game at 7 p.m. Saturday against No. 4 Orangewood Academy. The Spartans (27-4) defeated No. 13 Vincent Memorial, 59-41.
The win was historic for the Pioneers, as it was their first victory in their first appearance in the state tournament. Providence also made program history by earning a spot in the program’s first CIF Southern Section semifinal to earn the state berth.
“Defensively, we always talk about the fact that opponents are going to have to play against us,” said Providence High Coach Andrew Bencze, whose squad won its second straight Liberty League championship this season. “We can scout the other team and find out about them, but we just want to make sure that we’re ready to play. Defensively, they just found it hard to score on us.”
The Pioneers also took advantage of a No. 12 Rock Academy (18-11) team that didn’t shoot the ball well throughout the contest. The Warriors were 14 of 71 from the floor (19%) and had as many as four field goals in just one quarter.
Providence, on the other hand, received a solid game from junior Bea Benedicto. Benedicto muscled her way for a game-high 19 points, many of which came on power moves under the basket or from layups. She also had 13 rebounds.
“I know I’m not the biggest player out there,” said Benedicto, who is 5 foot 7. “But I try and position myself to get the best shot. I’m lucky that I’m pretty quick, that helps me.”
Providence also received 11 points and six rebounds from junior Janel Adraneda and nine points off the bench from senior Gian-Mari Llaguno.
The Pioneers jumped out to a 10-point lead in the first quarter, 16-6, on the strength of five points from junior Estelle Glorioso and four from Benedicto.
Providence received a spark in the second quarter when Llaguno came off the bench to tally eight points. That helped the Pioneers enjoy a 20-point cushion at the half, 37-17.
Rock Academy came out with full-court pressure to start the second half. Instead of cutting into the lead, the Rock saw the Pioneers able to extend it, routinely breaking the pressure for easy layups. At one point, Providence scored on four consecutive layups against the pressure.
“We love when teams press us, and we hope they do,” Bencze said. “We know we can usually make one or two initial passes and we will at least get a great scoring opportunity. When teams pressure us we want to make them pay.”
The Pioneers continued to add to their lead in the third quarter, as the team went into the final stanza with a comfortable 52-26 advantage
The Warriors, who suited up just seven players, got into foul trouble early. At the half, two players had three fouls and three more had two. Rock lost its best player, junior Sydney Daniel, with 6:14 left in the game when she picked up her fifth infraction. Daniel led the team with 14 points and also had 14 rebounds and two blocks.
“This is a historic run for us and we’re excited about Saturday’s game,” Bencze said. “It should be Orangewood Academy, and they are a very good program. But we’ll be ready.”