Playing on a team that stressed defense and spread the scoring around under coach Andrew Bencze, Benedicto — despite being just 5 feet 7 — was called upon to be the muscle down low for the Pioneers.
“People don’t realize just how strong Bea is,” said Bencze, who reached a milestone this season my notching his 300th victory. “She already came into the season strong, but she really worked hard in our weight program and she became even stronger. Even though she’s not that tall, Bea is hard to push around on the court.”
That muscle helped Benedicto average a team-high 9.9 points a game to go along with 5.6 rebounds. She also averaged 1.1 steals a game.
As a junior, Benedicto averaging 11.7 points and 5.6 rebounds a contest.
“There was a lot of pressure this year and I put a lot of that pressure on myself,” Benedicto said. “I just wanted to do as much work as I could to be prepared for games and to help the team out as much as I could.”
Bencze said although Benedicto wasn’t a typical vocal leader for the Pioneers this past season, she did lead by example and her teammates listened and respected her.
“Bea was a leader of this group of seniors,” said Bencze of the group that also included Janel Adraneda and Estelle Glorioso. “She helped take our program from a kinda successful league-championship program to one that’s a CIF contender and a state tournament participant.
“If you look at it, Bea helped lead us to four league championships, two CIF semifinal appearances and two state playoff appearances — that’s not a bad resume.”
Behind the senior, Providence (20-11) defeated Buckley, 59-54, to win the Liberty League Tournament and secure its fourth-straight championship.
As the No. 2 seed, the Pioneers did well in the Division V-AA playoffs, defeating Downey Calvary Chapel, 48-20, Linfield Christian, 69-44, and Bishop, 62-43, to advance to the semifinals. However, Providence wasn’t able to advance to the program’s first championship game after losing to Village Christian, 46-45.
In the CIF State Basketball Championships, Providence won its first-round game against Tri-County Christian, 42-29, before falling to No. 2 Sierra Canyon, 78-30.
Dabbaghian, who was also an All-CIF honoree a year ago, was perhaps the Pioneers’ best all-around player. Along with averaging 7.3 points and 4.7 rebounds, she also tallied 3.7 steals, 3.2 assists and nearly a block a game.
“She is still one of the only kids who will play the majority of the entire game. We will get her out once in a while, but that’s just how important she is and we need her in there,” Bencze said about Dabbaghian. “She’s our quarterback, she is the one running the offense and she is the one who we rely on to make the decisions.”
Mungues, another four-year player, was called upon to provide a defensive spark for Providence. Along with averaging 2.3 steals a game, she also averaged 4.8 points, 1.6 rebounds and 1.2 assists.
“Nicole was never afraid to take a big shot, whether it was at the beginning of the game or at the end of a game,” Bencze said. “But she just changed games with her defense. If you didn’t have a strong point guard, and even if you did, she was going to chase you all over the court. No one could seem to get by her.”