“We got a pretty tough schedule,” Providence Coach Andrew Bencze said. “Usually this time of year we’re in league and winning by 20-25 and there is a lot of confidence going. But this year is different, we’re playing a lot of tough teams.”
Rolling Hills Prep (9-7) was led by 6-foot forward Mar-jana Phillips, who rang up 17 points and was a major force on both the offensive and defensive boards. For her efforts, she was awarded the corporate-sponsored player of the game award. Fellow forward Beverly Ntagu had 13 points, including 11 in the second half, as the Huskies held off the Pioneers’ comeback efforts.
“Every loose ball it seemed [the Huskies] were a little longer, jumped a little higher and we couldn’t quite corral the loose balls,” Bencze said, “and that’s a big deal in a close game like that.”
Providence (10-8) had six players score. The Pioneers were led by Janel Adraneda with 10 points. Nicole Mungues added nine points while also playing strong defense, limiting lightning-quick Rolling Hills point guard Bridgette Adams to four points. Fabi Jimenez had six points off two first-half three pointers. Bea Benadicto had all five of her points in the final quarter.
“We’re always going to be the smaller team. I told them we are just going to have to deal with that. I just hope we can play big,” Bencze said.
Rolling Hills Prep led, 13-9, after the first quarter. Providence briefly took the lead at 14-13 early in the second on a Jimenez three-pointer, but after that the visitors scored the next four. The Pioneers took the lead back again on consecutive baskets by Kristie Kawamoto, but less than a minute later the Huskies had forged another lead and would go into halftime up, 24-22.
The Pioneers pulled ahead roughly four minutes into the third quarter on a three-pointer by Mungues, but Ntagu quickly answered for the Huskies to take a 28-27 advantage. It turned out to be a lead Rolling Hills Prep would not relinquish the rest of the contest, as they went on a 10-0 scoring run starting with the Ntagu bucket.
“We’re getting closer,” Bencze, in his 15th year, said. “We got down early and fought hard to come back, so we’re playing more minutes at a high level, we’re just not quite to four quarters yet.”