GARDEN GROVE — If there were any questions left about what quarter the Providence High girls’ basketball team thrives in most, they were answered and done so loudly by the Pioneers Saturday.
Providence went into the final quarter against fourth-seeded Orangewood Academy down three points, but managed to shut out the Spartans over the final eight minutes to pull off a 44-34 victory in the second round of the Division V CIF State Basketball Championships.
The fifth-seeded Pioneers (27-5) held only two one-point leads in the third quarter before finally taking a comfortable edge and not looking back in the fourth.
“It’s just determination and grit, this team seems to have it,” said Providence Coach Andrew Bencze of his team’s fourth-quarter prowess. “Whenever we’re down we never give up or put our heads down.
“This is an amazing run by a team that’s filled with all homegrown, great kids. If you had told me we’d be playing in March [in the beginning of the season] I probably wouldn’t have agreed with you.”
The win puts Providence in the Division V Southern California semifinals Tuesday at 7 p.m. against top-seeded host Mission Prep.
The comeback over Orangewood (26-6) was made possible by Providence’s patented pressure defense as nine of the Spartans’ 29 turnovers were committed in the fourth quarter, four coming in the final three minutes.
“In the beginning, we get nervous and then we settle in the fourth quarter — we should settle earlier, but it’s OK, at least we settle and pull through,” said Providence’s Janel Adraneda, who finished 10 points, six rebounds and three steals. “We just realize we only have a certain amount of time so we push through and do what we have to.”
Adraneda gave Providence its first lead of the fourth quarter, 36-34, with 3:15 to go in the game as she laid the ball in off an offensive rebound and assist from Katia Dabbaghian, who finished with nine points and 10 rebounds.
Providence’s senior co-captain Catherine Saint, who started her first game in about a month due to an injured ankle, helped put the game away about 40 seconds later when she forced a steal, drew a foul and nailed both free throws to give the Pioneers their biggest lead of the game to that point, 38-34.
Saint finished with eight points and six steals.
Adraneda hit a wild layup with 1:33 to go to push the lead to six points, 40-34. She put the dagger in the Spartans when she nailed both her free throws with 45 seconds left to increase the lead to 43-34.
The Pioneers took their first lead a minute and 45 seconds into the third quarter on a jumper from Dabbaghian and a layup from Estelle Glorioso, giving them a 22-21 edge.
It was a back and forth eight minutes, featuring four lead changes, as Orangewood went into the fourth quarter with a 34-31 lead.
The game couldn’t have started much worse for the Pioneers, as they fell in a 9-2 hole in the first quarter and watched their standout center Bea Benedicto limp off the court less than four minutes into the game and not return with an ankle injury.
“I just told the girls, ‘Here we are again with another player injured, we just have to find a way,’” Bencze said. “That’s kind of been the theme this year — we find a way.”