BURBANK — Almost two weeks removed from its last competitive action, the Providence High girls’ basketball team showed some rust.
Yet, the Pioneers also showed some grit, highlighted by a defense that forced 28 turnovers and scored enough transition baskets to make up for a slow offensive effort in a 42-29 victory over visiting Vista Tri-City Christian in the opening round of the CIF State Division V basketball playoffs Wednesday evening at the Fritz Burns Student Activity Center.
With the win, the seventh-seeded Pioneers (20-10) advance to Saturday’s second round at 7 p.m. at second-seeded Chatsworth Sierra Canyon (19-9).
“The one thing that we do well is we play defense and get after it,” Pioneers Coach Andrew Bencze said. “There’s not a lot of girls’ basketball teams that really play man-defense. One of the reasons why we do it is because it’s very difficult to score. A team like ours, we can really be hit or miss offensively and tonight we were much more miss.”
Providence held a 31-17 advantage over three quarters when the Eagles (23-7) scored the first three points of the fourth on a free throw from Alyssa Ramos (game-high 15 points) followed by an offensive rebound and putback from Kalani Carter with 5:14 left, which led to a Pioneers timeout.
Out of the break, the Pioneers scored three straight points on a free throw from Katia Dabbaghian followed by a steal from senior forward Estelle Glorioso that led to a coast-to-coast uncontested layup with 4:08 remaining.
“You could never really feel too comfortable out there because crazy things can happen in the playoffs,” said Dabbaghian, who finished with six points and four steals. “We’ve learned to never be too comfortable and when [Tri-City] made a move, so did we.”
The Eagles countered with their own steal and bucket from Ramos with 3:29 left to pull within 34-22.
However, Providence iced the game with back-to-back inside baskets from senior Bea Benedicto, who scored six points and didn’t see much court time due to foul trouble.
Benedicto’s second field goal, though, came with 2:44 left and put the Pioneers ahead, 38-22. Tri-City never again pulled again closer than 14 points.
“Bea is a big part of our game, even when she’s not scoring,” Bencze said. “She’s our post presence inside.”
Benedicto picked up her second foul with 4:25 left in the first quarter and her absence helped the Eagles survive a rough first quarter in which they committed 12 turnovers and yet only trailed, 10-4, thanks to a decisive 10-5 advantage on the boards.
Providence created some separation in winning the second quarter, 12-9, behind seven points from Janel Adraneda.
Glorioso then began the second half with another steal and sprint for a layup that put the Pioneers ahead, 24-13, with 6:44 left in the third.
Only once in the second half was the Eagles’ deficit not in double-digits and that was when a free throw from Becca Baldwin (11 rebounds) brought the visitors within 26-17 with 4:44 remaining in the third.
The nine-point advantage eventually ballooned, however, to a 31-17 lead after three quarters thanks in part to consecutive buckets from Glorioso.
“We were shaky at different times with this being our first state playoff game, but we stuck together,” said Glorioso, who finished with a team-high 10 points, six rebounds and five steals. “We turned to our transition defense to find who was open and tried to stop them.”