PROVIDENCE HIGH — At just 5 feet 7, Providence High girls' basketball player Bea Benedicto is not a very imposing figure in the post for the Pioneers. But what the senior lacks in length she makes up for in desire, physicality and sheer will.
Some of those skills were on display Friday night when Providence faced St. Genevieve in the semifinals of the 16th annual Providence Pioneer Shootout. Benedicto used her strength to muscle for her share of points under the basket, finishing with 21.
That effort helped the Pioneers roll to a 43-26 victory and gives the hosts a chance to win the championship in their own tournament for the first time in 13 years.
Providence will meet Louisville in the title game at 7:30 p.m. Saturday. Louisville advanced to the championship by defeating Heritage Christian, 44-30.
Benedicto, an All-CIF Southern Section honoree last season, was a force down low for the Pioneers (3-1) throughout the game. She frustrated the Valiants (3-1) with a steady diet of power moves, which led to high-percentage shots.
“People don’t realize how strong Bea is,” Providence Coach Andrew Bencze said. “She is just so strong that it’s hard for players to move her. She gets position and she makes opposing players go backward. She has worked very hard on her game.”
Benedicto, who also grabbed eight rebounds, got the Pioneers off to a good start in the first quarter when she scored 10 points all on layup baskets. The Providence defense assisted in setting up many of those baskets, helping force seven turnovers in the stanza.
The Providence defense, which has stepped up in three tournament wins, tallied 25 turnovers in the game.
Providence also received seven points and five steals from Nicole Mungues and eight rebounds and five steals from Janel Adraneda.
The Pioneers played well in the first and as a result, took an 18-8 lead.
Despite committing eight turnovers in the second quarter, the Pioneers were able to outscore the Valiants, 10-5, in the second quarter and went into the half with a comfortable 28-13 cushion.
While the Pioneers defense had a great deal to do with limiting St. Genevieve to just 13 points in the first half, the Valiants also struggled on offense, converting just four of 21 shots from the field.
St. Genevieve was paced by Jassmine Martinez, who scored 12 points and had 10 rebounds.
“This is the deepest team that I’ve ever had, as our one through 10 players can really play basketball and there’s really no drop-off when we have to go to our bench,” Bencze said. “The only difference is with the defense. Our starters are really the ones who get after it on defense.”
After dominating the first two quarters, Providence experienced a lull in the third. The Pioneers shot just two of 10 from the field and were outscored, 7-5. However, Providence still went into the fourth quarter with a 13-point lead, 33-20.
The Valiants cut the advantage to 11 with 7:27 left in the game on a three-pointer by Sandy Monicayo. However, Providence received consecutive baskets by Olive Menke and Deanna Nazarian to push the lead up to 15 with 6:33 left.
Benedicto will again be undersized when she goes up against Louisville and its 6-1 senior standout Nicholle Austin, who is headed to Cornell. But being undersized is something Benedicto is used to.
“For my four years it’s been that way,” she said. “I go to tournaments and I always have to go up against girls who are taller than I am. After I’ve played girls who are a lot bigger than me, I kind of have learned after awhile what I need to do.”
The last time the Pioneers won their own tournament championship was in 1999, when they defeated Campbell Hall.