BURBANK — Make no mistake, Providence girls’ basketball Coach Andrew Bencze expects to win league championships.
Again on Thursday evening, his team delivered on that expectation.
Facing Pacifica Christian in the finals of the Liberty League Tournament on their home court, the Pioneers overcame an early deficit to secure a 52-37 win, notching their fifth consecutive league crown.
“We compete to get banners,” Bencze said. “We always say we look for two banners, that league championship banner and then we move on to CIF.”
For Providence (16-6), its quest for another memento in the rafters looked murky, at least initially.
Facing the Seawolves (15-7) towering frontcourt led by senior Shannon Volpis and junior Shari Volpis, the Pioneers found themselves disoriented and in a hole early on, trailing, 8-1, three minutes into the contest, prompting Bencze to call a timeout.
“We were so nervous that we were just rushing,” Bencze said. “We’d make one pass and do the ‘hero play.’ I kept telling them it’s not the way it works. You have to move that ball around.”
Eventually, they did, cutting the deficit to three by the end of the quarter. Later on a three-pointer by Fabi Jimenez at the 4:48 mark of the second quarter, the Pioneers grabbed the lead, 14-12.
They never trailed again.
“We just wore them out,” Bencze said. “By being more disciplined on offense.”
The three-pointer from Jimenez marked the first of her five baskets from beyond the arc, as the sophomore guard finished with a game-high 21 points.
Junior guard Katie Dabbaghian added 15 points of her own, including eight in the first half while penetrating the lane for a handful of baskets.
“I just assumed I could beat them,” Dabbaghian said. “Because I thought I was quicker than them. I thought if I could get them in foul trouble too, that would be bad for them because they’re their two primary scorers. So I just tried to take it to the hoop and went it.”
Said Bencze: “Katia’s been our leader all year long, our leader by example,” Bencze said. “She’s kind of like the hub. Everyone revolves around her. I don’t think people outside realize how important she is to the team. She is, in my opinion, the best player in the league, because she doesn’t just score. She passes, she plays defense, she rebounds. I mean, she’s one of the best all around players I’ve ever coached.”
As the game progressed, Providence’s lead continued to build. By the end of the third quarter, it led by 13 points. By the midway point of the fourth quarter, its lead had ballooned to 21 points.
Its defense, occasionally using a half-court trap, proved stifling, as the Seawolves recorded just one field goal in the third quarter — a layup coming off an offensive rebound from Shannon Volpis. The elder Volpis finished with a team-best 15 points, outmuscling defenders for a number of points off rebounds. No other player finished in double-figures for Pacifica Christian.