Providence High’s girls’ basketball team has had high expectations all season and has now put itself in prime position to claim its ultimate goal.
“It’s almost exactly like the last poll [of the regular season],” said Pioneers Coach Andrew Bencze of how the CIF Southern Section Division 5-AA playoff brackets played out when they were released on Sunday. “[It is] probably one of our best opportunities to get to the CIF championship and win a CIF championship.”
Providence will begin its hopeful ascent to the championship on Thursday when it hosts Downey Calvary Chapel, while Burroughs hosts Fountain Valley, Burbank welcomes El Toro and Bellarmine-Jefferson travels to face St. Bernard.
In the Division 1-A first round, Burroughs, which shared the Pacific League title, garnered the No. 8 seed and will host Fountain Valley (11-15), a Sunset League at-large entrant, on Saturday night.
“Fountain Valley is an Orange County team, Orange County teams tend to be pretty good,” said Burroughs Coach Vicky Oganyan, whose Indians (23-4) will look to advance to Wednesday’s second round against Westminster or Lakewood. “They come from a tough league.”
Burroughs is coming off a league-finale loss to Burbank, but Oganyan believes with some days off to rest, the Indians will be raring to go.
“Even though we lost on Thursday, I think my team will be ready to play,” she said.
Elsewhere in Division 1-A, Burbank (15-12) will host South Coast League No. 3 El Toro (11-15). After finishing third in the Pacific League, the Bulldogs, a season after a semifinal run, hope to advance to Wednesday’s second round to face Godinez or second-seeded Canyon Springs.
Burbank has enjoyed recent success in the postseason. Last season, the team advanced to the division semifinals for the first time in school history and also advanced to the state tournament, which was also a first.
“The girls’ know with what happened last year, anything’s possible,” Burbank Coach Bruce Breeden said. “We didn’t get as good of a draw as we did last year, but we are ready to go."
Breeden said having a week to practice and heal is a benefit for the Bulldogs.
“We had three sprained ankels from the Burroughs game,” said Breeden of Thursday’s rivalry contest in which Burbank won, 54-37. “So, having the time off in that respect is going to be good for us. I just told the girls that they have to stay focused during the long week.”
In the ultra-tough Division 4-AA, Bell-Jeff (12-5), after taking second in the Santa Cruz League, will open the playoffs on Thursday against fourth-seeded St. Bernard (22-7), the second-place team out of the Del Rey League. The winner will face either Marlborough or El Segundo.
Providence, fresh off winning a Liberty League title, brings its 16-8 record into its 5-AA opener on Thursday against Calvary Chapel (13-13), a Delphic League at-large entrant. If it advances, it will face off with Sherman Indian or Linfield Christian on Saturday.
“We’ve faced tough teams all over the place,” Bencze said. “I wouldn’t say confidence, [I’d say] we feel prepared.”