Providence basketball recovers to win opener in league tourney

BURBANK — It wasn't exactly a resounding way for the Providence High boys' basketball team to open up play in the Liberty League Tournament on its own floor.

Playing against No. 6-seeded Pacifica Christian, the No. 3 Pioneers struggled in the first half. Not only was Providence out rebounded more than two to one in the half, but the team also wasn't hitting its shots and its offensive wasn't clicking.

Despite its troubles, the Pioneers were able to stay in Monday's tournament first-round game, and amazingly trailed by just two points at the half.

The second half was a different story, as the Pioneers came out invigorated, played more aggressively and surged ahead. Providence also increased its defensive pressure, which was too much for the Seawolves to handle, allowing the Pioneers to notch a 53-38 victory.

The Pioneers, who lost in the first round of the inaugural tournament last season, move on to the second round to face No. 2 Yeshiva at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at Providence.

"When it comes down to it, we just played soft in the first half," said Providence first-year Coach Chris Madigan, whose squad improved to 13-9. "We were just not doing the things that we needed to do to win. We were letting guys come flying in for second-chance opportunities because we're looking around and star gazing."

It was indeed a forgettable first half for the Pioneers against Pacifica Christian (9-12). To open the game, Providence missed its first nine shots from the field. In the first two quarters, Providence converted just four of 27 shots from the field. In addition, the team was out rebounded, 24-10.

But despite the problems, the Seawolves just couldn't maintain any sustained lead.

Although it made good on two of 13 field-goal attempts in the opening quarter, the Pioneers actually had a 6-3 lead after the first quarter. That was due partially to Pacifica Christian making just one of its 10 shots from the field and the Pioneers helping force eight turnovers.

"We played kind of lax in the first half and I just don't think we had a good enough rhythm early on," said Providence senior Jonathan Ly, who had 14 points and six rebounds. "We got a little complacent with their zone and we had to just keep attacking."

The Pioneers were four of 14 from the field in the second quarter — with all of their points coming on four three-pointers, two of which came from Ly. Unfortunately for Providence, Pacifica Christian began to play better in the second quarter. The Seawolves were able to outscore the Pioneers, 17-12, in the stanza to take a 20-18 advantage into the half.

Providence came out in the second half and began to take control of the game. When senior Josias Parker (13 points, four steals) knocked down a three-pointer with 2:01 remaining, the Pioneers had built an eight-point lead. The Pioneers ended the third with a 36-32 lead.

"We were playing soft in that first half," Ly said. "We knew we had to come out and play more aggressively in the second half. We wanted to open things up for our shooters from the outside and I thought we did a good job at that."

Providence kept up the pressure in the fourth quarter, upping its lead to 13, 51-38, with 1:07 left in the contest.

Junior Michael Armstead added 11 points for the Pioneers.

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