BURBANK – The Providence High girls' basketball team hasn't shied away from playing tough, ranked opponents recently.
In the last few weeks, the Pioneers have faced Orangewood Academy (ranked No. 1 in CIF Southern Section Division VA), Buckley (No. 8 Division VAA), Santa Clara (No. 2 in Division VAA) and Holy Martyrs (No. 9 in Division VA).
With the hope that playing against challenging competition will benefit it once the Liberty League Tournament and playoffs roll around, Providence was at it again Thursday night, as it took on Fullerton Rosary, the No. 6-ranked team in Division IVAA that plays in the ultra-competitive Trinity League.
With some key players sidelined with illness, the Pioneers proved to be no match for the Royals, who used full-court pressure and a stingy zone defense to frustrate Providence and send it to a 61-38 nonleague home defeat.
"The level that they play at is just so hard for us to play like that for four full quarters," Providence Coach Andrew Bencze said. "But despite the loss, this is the best we've played all season and the hardest we've played all season.
"And that's why we play games like this against tough teams. Because now I can say to our players, 'You can do this every night if you want to.' If we play this way we don't lose to a team like Holy Martyrs, like we did [Tuesday] night."
Rosary (13-7) – which is winless in the Trinity League with an 0-4 record – used an inside-out game to frustrate the Pioneers (11-6 and ranked No. 8 in Division IV-A). If the Royals were not knocking down three-pointers from the outside, they were driving for baskets inside.
Leading the offensive charge was junior Emily Arellanes, who scored 19 of her game-high 29 points in the second half. She also knocked down three three-pointers.
Doing the damage on the inside was senior Rachel Pau'u, who grabbed 16 rebounds to go along with 10 points.
However, what really threw off the Pioneers was the Rosary defense, which helped cause 22 Providence turnovers.
"Our staple is our defense. We have to play good defense to be successful," Rosary Coach Richard Yoon said. "We have to pressure the ball, we have to rotate and try and get as many fast-break layups as possible. We pride ourselves on our defense."
Despite not shooting well early in the game, the Pioneers kept things close after one quarter, trailing just, 15-8. But the Providence shooting woes continued in the second quarter, as the team converted just five of its 23 shots from the floor in the first half.
As a result, Providence, which was outscored, 11-5, in the second quarter, went into halftime losing, 26-13.
Arellanes got a hot hand in the third quarter, scoring 12 points. At the end of the third, the Royals had increased their cushion to 49-24.
Although the loss was inevitable for the Pioneers in the fourth quarter, junior Katia Dabbaghian was relentless for Providence. The two-time All-CIF player scored 13 of her team-high 21 points in the final stanza.
"She played the entire game. She's out there tired and exhausted and she's just not giving up," Bencze said. "She's still out there hitting big shots. I just can't say enough about her. She's just one [heck] of a player."