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Championship hurdle proves too high for Flintridge Prep girls’ basketball

ONTARIO — It took an unbelievable effort from Beverly Hills High center Chantal Moawad to deny the Flintridge Prep girls' basketball team its second championship in a three-year span.

The towering 6-foot-2 center finished with 14 points and 25 rebounds and hit a pair of clutch free throws late as the fourth-seeded Rebels fell to second-seeded Beverly Hills, 50-46, in Saturday evening's CIF Southern Section Division III-A championship at Ontario Colony High.

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The defeat ended the Prep League champion Rebels' drive to a second-ever CIF title, while the season continues. Flintridge Prep (24-6), which saw its 19-game winning streak snapped, will advance to the CIF State playoffs, which begin Wednesday.

Flintridge Prep sophomore guard Kaitlyn Chen scored a game-high 19 points and had seven rebounds, while freshman guard Sofia Gonzalez added 13 points and six rebounds and junior center Madison Manning chipped in six points.

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Freshman guard Michelle Duchemin led Ocean League co-champion Beverly Hills (24-5) with 15 points and 12 rebounds, while Megan Saghian buried a couple of big three-pointers in adding eight points.

"I want to get the last four minutes back and I wish we would have rebounded better – all of those things," Flintridge Prep co-coach Jayme Kiyomura Chan said. "Our shot wasn't falling tonight, but what I love about my team is that they won't make any excuses. Kaitlyn will tell you it was just a bad shot. Maddy will tell you [Moawad] was outworking me. I'm just so dang proud of them for owning the wins and losses."

Flintridge Prep briefly led in the fourth quarter and trailed, 47-43, after a lay-up from Moawad with 37 seconds left.

Chen was clutch in beating senior defender Dominique Petrie and answering with a three-pointer with 29.5 seconds remaining to bring the Rebels within 47-46.

Flintridge Prep, which had five fouls at the time, wasted 21 seconds in fouling twice and sending Moawad to the line for a one-plus-one with 9.1 seconds left.

The sophomore, who had missed her only two previous free-throws, connected on two, which gave her squad a 49-46 advantage.

"Every day during practice, I practice my free throws," Moawad said. "I just practice and my free throws started going straight and it worked out."

Out of a timeout, Chen took the ball and was about 30 feet from the basket when she quickly fired a shot that sailed wide and landed out of bounds with 1.9 seconds left.

The Rebels fouled Arbri Gillis, who made one free throw, to end the game.

"I heard the [Beverly Hills] coach yelling 'Foul,' so I assumed [Petrie] was going to foul, but I rushed it and she didn't foul," Chen said. "So, it was a bad shot."

Knowing that Flintridge Prep needed a three-pointer, Petrie was up to task only 20 seconds after previously being deked.

"Obviously, she's an amazing player and I don't think I've ever defended anyone quite like her," Petrie said of Chen. "The first time around she did a fake to her right and I actually bit on it and that's how she got the three. I knew that at that point in the game a three was all they could get to [tie] … I just got a hand in the face and it looks like it was enough."

A Flintridge Prep team that delivered a defensive masterpiece in upsetting top-seeded Oxford Academy on Feb. 24 in the semifinals, held another opponent to a low margin as Beverly Hills only shot 30.6% (22 for 72) versus 35.8% shooting (19 of 53) for the Rebels.

Flintridge Prep's fatal flaw, however, was the rebounding as the Rebels were crushed on the boards, 52-38, with Moawad out-rebounding the Rebels on the offensive glass, 12-6.

That decisive advantage kept the Normans in the contest as the Rebels led, 11-8, after one quarter with six of Beverly Hills' points coming on second and third chances.

Flintridge Prep took a 22-18 lead at the one-minute mark in the second quarter on a jumper from Gonzalez.

Yet, a pair of runners from Duchemin before the half gave the Normans the second quarter, 14-11, as Beverly Hills pulled even at 22 at the half.

Beverly Hills won the third quarter, 15-11, and responded to its lone deficit of the fourth quarter, 39-37, with a bucket from Duchemin, off an offensive rebound and assist from Moawad, and a Moawad inside basket to go ahead, 41-39, and never trail again.

"We're just so excited looking back at how far we've come and looking at our first games and how we've made it this far and how well we're playing now," Gonzalez said. "We're just so grateful to have each other and to be back next season."

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