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Pioneers make history in dramatic fashion

Basketball: Providence advances to semifinals for first time following 56-54 playoff win at home.

February 22, 2012|BY ANDREW SHORTALL, andrew.shortall@latimes.com

Once again the Pioneers fell behind in the third quarter, as the Cardinals' Michaela Garcia, who finished with 14 points, sank a layup to cap a 15-0 run that gave Mesa Grande a nine-point lead, 36-27, with 3:08 left in the quarter.

Providence had yet another answer, as it cut the deficit to 40-36 heading into the fourth. Reyes hit a three-pointer and Benedicto completed an and-one opportunity in the final three minutes of the frame.

The final quarter started out better than the Pioneers could have dreamed yet again as they opened the fourth with an 8-0 run to retake the lead, 44-40.

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"The one thing about this team is they have a lot of fight," Bencze said. "You could see in that fourth quarter they weren't going to lose. They never feel like they're out of it."

Mesa Grande managed to tie the score at 48 when Madison Price, who had a huge game with 16 points and 18 rebounds, nailed back-to-back buckets off Providence turnovers with 3:33 left.

Slovyana Grekov gave the Cardinals their first lead of the fourth quarter, 53-53, with a deep three-pointer with two minutes left that answered a deep two-point jumper from Dabbaghian.

The Cardinals turned the ball over on five of their final six possessions, as Providence took a 54-53 edge with 45 seconds left on a single free throws from Adraneda and Benedicto.

Price evened the score again at 54 with 26 ticks remaining by cashing in on the second of two free throws.

Dabbaghian took the ensuing inbounds pass, but had nowhere to go, as Mesa Grande applied full-court pressure and a double-team on the freshman, who looked up and chucked an outlet pass to Reyes, who sent a quick pass down low in the post to Benedicto.

Benedicto made a quick post move to get space and nailed a short jumper to give the Pioneers a 56-54 lead.

The Cardinals got the ball up the court and called timeout with 12 seconds left.

The inbounds play didn't go as planned, as a Mesa Grande's pass was tipped and nearly stolen before the Cardinals regained possession and called another timeout with 1.2 seconds left.

The Cardinals clearly wanted to get the ball to Garcia, but couldn't, as she was blanketed by Mungues, Instead, they passed the ball, beating a five-second violation, to another player, who passed it to Garcia. But the final buzzer sounded before she could get off a shot.

"These games are hard on everybody's nerves, but they're really exciting when you win," Bencze said.

Providence got out to a 9-0 lead in the first quarter, as the Cardinals turned the ball over on their first five possessions and didn't score until the sixth minute when Garcia hit a three.

The Pioneers kept a nine-point edge, 16-7, heading into the fourth quarter thanks to a buzzer-beating jumper from Glorioso.

Mesa Grande cut the deficit to 25-21 before the half thanks to back-to-back buckets from Lauren Bosler and Abbie Tohm in the final 1:38.

"We tried to stay up but they re-upped in the second quarter," Benedicto said. "We had to recharge at halftime but we eventually got it all together."

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