BURBANK — When the Bellarmine-Jefferson boys' basketball team emerged from the locker room before tip-off Friday evening, it looked eager to jump out to a quick start.
The Guards skipped around the court, tossed a couple passes off the top of the backboard and quickly burst into pre-game warm-up lines amid claps and cheers. The group exuded confidence.
But when the ball was tossed into air, it was a feisty Providence High that grabbed an early lead, reeling off an early run to open the nonleague contest in front of its home crowd.
"Playing with too much confidence," said Bell-Jeff junior forward Abid Oses.
Eventually, the Guards, ranked No. 2 in the latest CIF-Southern Section Division 5A poll, settled down to regain control over their crosstown rivals en route to a 63-53 victory. With the win over Providence (9-8), they improved to 12-8 overall.
"We finally recognized what we were trying to do out there," Bell-Jeff Coach Julian Andrade said, "to take advantage of the mismatches and to get the ball inside. That made a big difference."
Trailing early after an 11-2 Providence run, Oses helped wrestle the lead back for Bell-Jeff, which was down, 19-13, at the end of the first quarter and appeared out of control in an opening period filled with turnovers and sloppy play. The 6-foot-5 big man scored 13 first-half points, helping knot the score at 25 by halftime.
"That's our bread and butter stuff," Andrade said. "It's no secret we want to get the ball down low. You have to work from the inside out."
By the final whistle, Oses finished with 23 points, with junior forward Clark Thomas recording 18 points.
"We knew with their size, we could beat them down low," said the 6-foot-3 Thomas, who scored 10 of his 18 points in the second half. "And when they double team us, they're always leaving one of us open. Either way, we could get buckets."
The towering tandem, which combined for 41 of the team's 63 points, proved too much and outmuscled an undermanned Providence, which failed to reclaim its first quarter lead.
"We have to finish our fair share of plays to keep that separation," Pioneers Coach Chris Madigan said. "They're a physically talented team. They're big. And if you don't defend that properly, it's hard to stop to them."
That continued in the second half. To break the halftime tie, the Guards opened the third quarter on an 11-2 run of their own before leading by as many as 16 points midway through the fourth quarter.
A late rally from the Pioneers, who got 12 second-half points from senior guard Josias Parker, was not quite enough.
Senior guard Jonathan Ly led Providence with 14 points. Forward Michael Armstead added 13.
"Our kids played hard, they competed," Madigan said. "That's just a really good basketball team. They're a good team. They just beat us. They're better."
"It's definitely a plus," Andrade said, referring to the win over a crosstown foe. "We look at that as them being another Burbank school."
Both teams resume play next week against Verbum Dei High, with Providence hosting the Eagles on Monday at 6:30 p.m. in nonleague action, and with Bell-Jeff traveling to the school on Wednesday at 7 p.m. for the Santa Fe League matchup.