Pioneer loss is first in league

BURBANK — Providence High's girls' basketball team got an early taste of what the playoffs will be like Saturday night, as the Pioneers faced off against Holy Martyr's Armenian at home.

The Pioneers looked to remain undefeated in the Liberty League, while the Armens played to avenge the 46-32 loss they suffered at the hands of the Providence on Dec. 30.

Points were hard to come by this time around, as both teams played shut-down defense, but revenge won out, as Holy Martyrs won the defensive battle, 31-26.

"They are a great defensive team and so are we," said Varant Vartabedian, coach of the Armens (18-4, 7-1 in league). "That's the way we both like to play."

Pioneers Coach Andrew Bencze credited Holy Martyrs for being able to shut down his team's run-and-gun offense.

"It became a half-court game and that's really what we don't want," Bencze said. "We want to run, but they were scoring and we were fouling them and it slowed the game down. It became our half-court play against their half-court play."

No easy baskets were allowed for Providence (16-6, 5-1), thanks to the Armens' big body in the middle, Sarin Keosian. Keosian locked down the paint, fouling to prevent any easy Pioneer layups. She cleaned up the boards too, finishing the game with 12 rebounds, four points and two blocks.

"They really hurt us on the boards," Bencze said. "We had so many opportunities at the end of the shot clock to grab rebounds but we didn't do it. Giving them two or three extra possessions is really what killed us."

Shooshan Zargaryan provided nearly all of the Armens' offense, scoring 23 of her team's 31 points.

"We played so well because of the last game," she said. "It just motivated us all to push harder."

Catherine Saint had a team-high eight points for Providence. Bea Benedicto and Rita Khatchadourian each finished the game with six points for the Pioneers.

The win puts the Armens on top of the Liberty League standings with just two more games left in their regular season. Providence still has four league games left to catch them, though.

"[This game] certainly will be a wakeup call for us on how to handle big games," Bencze said. "This will help us prepare for playoffs. I'd rather lose now than in the middle of the playoffs."

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