Providence girls' basketball can't keep up with No. 2 Sierra Canyon

SIMI VALLEY - While the Providence High girls' basketball team was more than familiar with the full-court, constant-pressure defense Sierra Canyon runs – given the Pioneers run it themselves - the Trailblazers held a number of intangibles they simply couldn't handle. Sierra Canyon used its healthy length and height advantage over Providence to post a 78-30 running-clock victory in the second round of the CIF State Division V Basketball Championships at Chatsworth High Saturday night. “They almost run the exact same [defense], but we can't do it against them because they're so long and athletic,” Providence Coach Andrew Bencze said. “They play the perfect system for their personnel, they really do. Their defense is their offense, kind of the way our defense can be our offense at times – obviously not this game.” The second-seeded and Southern Section Division V-AA champion Trailblazers (24-9) had three starters over 5-foot-10 compared to none for the Pioneers, whose tallest starters, Bea Benedicto and Kristie Kawamoto, check in at 5-7 and about 5-9, respectively. “They play very hard for the size that they do have,” Sierra Canyon Coach Alicia Komaki said of seventh-seeded Providence. “We just try to take advantage of any opportunity that we can. If we're creating mismatches and opportunities with our size advantage then so be it. My kids are pretty athletic and we rebound pretty well against anybody we're playing against; it just showed more tonight.” Sierra Canyon's Cheyanne Wallace nearly posted a triple-double in three quarters of play with 14 points, nine rebounds and nine blocks. Kennedy Burke scored a game-high 21 points to go with seven rebounds and three blocks for the Trailblazers, who also had 16 points and nine rebounds from Zoe Goss. It would have taken perfection for Providence (20-11) to simply compete with the extremely athletic Sierra Canyon squad, which saw most of its buckets come off fast breaks. Providence didn't get off to a hot start, as it committed 10 of its 19 turnovers in the first quarter behind a hounding Trailblazers double-team defense. “We kind of rely on our man-to-man pressure in the full court and the half-court to set the tone for us,” Komaki said. “We try to put it on early and hopefully we don't have to use it in the second half.” Sierra Canyon, which held a 35-15 rebound advantage in the game, scored the first eight points before Providence got on the board on an Estelle Glorioso free throw 2:07 into the game. By the time the Pioneers connected from the floor on a Janel Adraneda (six points) shot, it was down 19, 22-3. It was a start Bencze knew his team couldn't afford. “The margin for error is so slim and you have to play so well, particularly in the beginning of a game like that because if it gets out of hand it's done,” he said. Providence put together its finest run late in the second quarter. After trailing by as many as 32, the Pioneers managed to cut the deficit to 27, 43-16, after they nailed three three-pointers in a row. Nicole Mungues (seven points) hit the first with 3:16 to play in the first half. Wallace brought the score to 43-10 before Katia Dabbaghian (seven points) and Kawamoto hit back-to-back threes – the first time Providence put consecutive buckets together. The Pioneers didn't do so again until the fourth quarter when the Trailblazers subbed out their starters and pulled back defensively. Providence won the quarter by a score of 6-4 with Mungues, Benedicto and Deanna Nazarian scoring two points in the frame. While both the state and Division V-AA playoffs came to a disappointing end for the Pioneers, who reached the Southern Section semifinals for the second year in a row but were upset, Bencze realized the past two seasons have been huge improvements from where the program was not long ago. “It's the second year in a row, semifinalists and in the state playoffs,” Bencze said. “You don't want to say you're just happy to be here, but we're pretty proud of the fact we're here.” Providence seniors Benedicto, Mungues, Adraneda and Glorioso were all key in the program's recent rise, and while it'll certainly be tough, the Pioneers will look to keep moving up without them come 2014. “Hopefully more, hopefully be in the CIF championship game,” Bencze said of next year's aspirations, “that's our goal every year now. I think next year's group can do it, they have to learn a lot from these seniors about being mentally tough, but they can do it.”

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