Providence High girls' basketball proves grittier than Campbell Hall

STUDIO CITY — For the Providence High girls' basketball team, Saturday night's CIF Southern Section Division IV-A second-round playoff contest at Campbell Hall was a little like looking into a mirror.

In the host Vikings, the Pioneers faced a foe just as scrappy, just as keen on using its defense to pester an overwhelmed opponent.

"They're really aggressive," Pioneers junior guard Katia Dabbaghian said, "and we're not used to seeing that. So, it's just who can grit it out, who can be more aggressive."

In the end, that was Providence, which staved off similarly scrappy Campbell Hall, 39-33, to advance to the quarterfinals. The Pioneers (18-6) will face the winner between Fairmont Prep and Loma Linda Academy on Wednesday night and will be at home.

"The grind-it-out style was fine," Providence Coach Andrew Bencze said, "because we played good defense."

In large part, it was their defense that kept the Pioneers hanging around in a first quarter where they struggled shooting-wise, scoring just eight points and missing all four three-point field goal attempts. For the game, the Pioneers went 0-for-11 from beyond the arc.

But in the opening period, they kept the Vikings at bay, holding them to eight points as they experience similar scoring troubles.

"Really, the whole first quarter, they made us play too fast," Bencze said of Campbell Hall. "That was our response to them – we played too fast. We wanted to be the team that executed, passed the ball around, got them tired and then got a good shot out of it. But what we did was one pass, and then a shot; panicked a little bit, and then threw the ball away."

A 7-2 second-run put Providence ahead at halftime, 15-11, as it seemed to settle down, relying on its interior play and Dabbaghian, who would finish with a game-high 19 points and 19 rebounds.

The lead ballooned in the second half.

Providence led by as much as 10 points by 6:40 in the fourth quarter as sophomore guard Rachel Camonayan pulled up for a jump shot in the lane. Camonayan added nine points of her own, and fellow sophomore guard Fabi Jimenez had six.

But Campbell Hall (14-10) made a late push, cutting the lead to 31-27 with three minutes to go, relying, again, on its defense to force pressure and cause turnovers. Providence, though, failed to help its cause, missing the front end of two one-and-ones over that stretch, as well as other missed opportunities. Over the course of the game, it missed seven-of-15 free-throw attempts.

Eventually, Dabbaghian ended the run with a layup off a baseline inbounds play. That was as close as the Vikings got.

"It definitely felt like a playoff game," Dabbaghian said. "The intensity always goes up. But we're experienced and we know that we have to pick it up. You're kinda prepared for it."

It wasn't their first grind-it-out style game away from home.

"In our regular season, we played a lot of games like this," Bencze added. "That's why we were frustrated, but we were confident. I think there's a difference. We were frustrated missing free throws and easy shots.

"But the things I was saying to them, they remembered from earlier games. 'Don't worry, as long as you play defense, you'll be fine.' And they nodded and they understood. That experience of playing tough games on the road where we have trouble scoring gave us the win tonight."

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