For more than two weeks, the Providence High girls’ basketball team has continued to make history.
With every victory came another milestone, as the Pioneers navigated their way through uncharted territory, moving deeper and deeper into the postseason.
In order to keep their magical season alive, the Providence players and coaches realized the team would have to come up with a big upset win Tuesday on the road. The No. 5 Pioneers had to travel to San Luis Obispo to take on a No. 1 Mission Prep in a Southern California regional semifinal of the CIF State Division V Basketball Championships.
Unfortunately for the Pioneers, they got off to a rough start against Mission Prep and as a result, saw their season come to an end with a 64-28 loss.
The Providence players can find solace in the fact that they helped orchestrate the most successful season in program history. After capturing their second straight Liberty League championship, Providence advanced to the CIF Southern Section Division V-AA semifinals for the first time in school history.
The invitation to the state playoffs was also a first for the Pioneers. Providence’s first state tournament victory came March 7 with a 68-35 victory against No. 12 Rock Academy of San Diego. The team advanced to the Southern California semifinals with a 44-34 win against No. 4 Oranagewood Academy on the road Saturday.
Ending the year with a 27-6 record, the Pioneers also set a program best for wins in a season.
Despite the defeat, Providence Coach Andrew Bencze said his group has a lot to be proud of.
“In the past, we’ve hung league championship banners up here at Providence and then we go to the playoffs and we don’t have much success,” he said. “But this is the team that changed all that. They have really set the bar high this year and we have something to shoot for in the future.”
The Pioneers had to play without their leading scorer, junior Bea Benedicto, who injured an ankle in Saturday’s win. In her absence, junior Janel Adraneda scored 10 points and had five rebounds. Teammate Katia Dabbaghian, a freshman, added eight points and six rebounds.
Providence dug itself a hole in the first quarter, as the Royals took a 24-6 advantage.
“We gave up a lot of transition buckets in that first quarter,” Bencze said. “We had trouble getting back and they did a good job at finding people open down the court. We just didn’t get up and down the floor defensively.”
The Pioneers did outscore Mission Prep, 16-4, in the third quarter.
“By that time it was a little bit late,” Bencze said. “At that point in the game the lead was just too big.”
Mission Prep (31-1), which had a bye in the first round of state competition, earned a 51-16 victory against Avalon Saturday in a second-round game.
Bencze said he knew his squad was going to have its hands full with a Royals team that has enjoyed a remarkable season. Mission’s lone loss of the year came Dec. 3 against Independence of Bakersfield in the Ruth Dosier Tournament, 40-29. Since that loss, the Royals have won 28 in a row.
In addition, the Royals defeated Villanova Prep, 56-45, to capture the CIF Southern Section Division IV-AA championship.