BURBANK — The Providence High girls' basketball team couldn't have asked for a better start in its playoff game Wednesday night.
The Pioneers opened up their CIF Southern Section Division IV-A quarterfinal game against No. 2 Fairmont Prep by scoring the first seven points of the contest, while forcing three turnovers.
Motivated by the opportunity to guide the program to its third-straight semifinal berth, the Pioneers looked determined and invigorated.
Unfortunately for Providence, they then hit a monumental skid and a scoring drought that began in the first quarter and carried over into the second. The Huskies took full advantage and the Pioneers were never able to recover, going down to a 69-39 defeat at home.
Providence (18-7), the No. 7 seed and champion of the Liberty League, was attempting to get to the semifinals in a new division after reaching the final four in Division V-AA the two previous seasons.
"To get the seventh seed and to win two games in the playoffs in a much, much tougher division this year is a great accomplishment," Providence Coach Andrew Bencze said. "This is a much better team than we had the previous two years and yet we don't get to the semifinals because the division is that much tougher."
As has been the case much of the season, the Pioneers did receive another sold performance from All-CIF junior Katia Dabbaghian, who tallied 16 points and 12 rebounds.
It was easy to surmise what caused things to come crashing down for Providence against Fairmont Prep (24-3), which captured the San Joaquin League championship.
In the opening quarter, Providence's Fabi Jimenez (eight points) knocked down a three-pointer to start the game and Dabbaghian sank two shots to give the Pioneers a 7-0 advantage at the 4:42 mark. During the span, the Pioneers created three turnovers and the Huskies missed their first four shots from the field.
But then Providence went stone cold. Fairmont Prep outscored the hosts, 13-0, the remainder of the quarter and ended the stanza with a 13-7 lead.
"I think once [Fairmont Prep] got into their momentum we just kind of deflated," Dabbaghian said. "We just didn't do a very good job about staying positive when that happened and they kind of fed off of that. That's what helped them take that big lead."
Providence's woes would continue in the second quarter, as it just couldn't convert a shot in the opening minutes. From Dabbaghian's second shot in the first quarter, the Pioneers endured a scoring drought that lasted a whopping 9 minutes and six seconds.
That dry spell was finally extinguished with 3:36 remaining in the second quarter when Jimenez sank two free throws. During the drought, the Huskies outscored the Pioneers, 27-8, which allowed Fairmont Prep to go into halftime with a 27-15 lead.
"I think it was a matter of us just not playing well in pressure moments," Bencze said. "We had our hands full with a very good team and when we needed to really pick it up, unfortunately we picked the quarterfinals to play one of our worst games of the season.
"A lot of people talk about what a good offensive team Fairmont Prep is, but they are a great defensive team as well. They just defend very well.
Fairmont Prep received a game-high 20 points from Maud Ranger and 16 from Rachel Williams."
After halftime, the Huskies continued to pour it on, outscoring Providence, 24-7, in the third quarter to all but lock the game down with a 51-22 advantage after three quarters.
Rachel Camonayan had nine points and Deanna Nazarian added six for the Pioneers.