Providence High's Marcus LoVett, Jr drives for a shot  in the Pioneers' opening tournament game.

Providence High's Marcus LoVett, Jr drives for a shot in the Pioneers' opening tournament game. (Cheryl A. Guerrero Staff Photographer / November 27, 2012)

PROVIDENCE HIGH — Before his team's season-opening game, Providence High boys' basketball Coach Ernest Baskerville said he was looking at how the guys would play defensively. The coach figured that the shots would eventually come and he wanted to see how well the Pioneers executed on defense.

Turns out they did pretty well.

The defense was clicking and the shots were falling as Providence defeated Sherman Oaks Center for Enriched Studies 86-21 at home in the first round of the 24th Annual Paul Sutton Tip-Off Classic on Tuesday.

"Our defensive pressure was good," Baskerville said. "I thought we did a decent job of that. We missed some steals that we should have had, missed some rotations. Other than that, I thought we did a good job."

The Pioneers (1-0) employed a pressure defense, harassing and pressing the Knights (0-3) on each inbound. Despite the aggressive style, Providence only logged three fouls in the first half. Baskerville said that in practice the team works on getting in front of opponents without using their hands.

"At practice, we talk about not reaching," he said. "A lot of people get fouls on reaching. Thats one of the worst fouls that you can have."

Providence's defense led to multiple fast break and quick buckets.

"We just want to get out and run," Providence's Marcus LoVett, Jr said. "Play 'D', try to get steals, just get easy baskets."

LoVett, last year's CIF Southern Section Division V-A Player of the Year, Liberty League Player of the Year and All-Area Player of the Year, picked up where he left off last season. The sophomore finished with 37 points, 10 steals and six assists in the victory over SOCES in three quarters of play. LoVett scored 17 points in the third period alone, include five three-pointers.

Christian Ware-Berry added 25 points for the Pioneers.

"Just the pressure and intensity that we give on the defensive end of the floor, once we get steals, cause the other team to commit turnovers, we're off to the races," Ware-Berry said. "We're not the biggest team on the court, so we know we have to use our speed to our advantage and that gets us easy buckets."

The game was never in question. The Pioneers jumped out to a 26-2 first-quarter lead and extended that to 50-10 at halftime. Providence eased up on the defense pressure in the third, but still took a 78-16 advantage into the final period. The Pioneers cruised to the 86-21 victory with the bench getting a lot of work in the fourth quarter.

After a trip to the state playoffs last season, expectations are high for Providence.

"Everybody has to work hard," LoVett said. "Everybody has to go into practice, no playing around. Get serious and get ready for business."

Ware-Berry emphasized improving in areas that need work, while building on their strengths.

"We just try to look at the things we did wrong and try to work on those areas, and of course keep working on our strengths and keep attacking what we do best," Ware-Berry said.

Baskerville stressed that the season only gets more difficult from here.

"Our schedule gets nothing but tougher at this point," he said. "Our effort has to be this way."

Providence welcomes Bell Gardens at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday.