LA CRESCENTA — During his first two seasons with the Flintridge Prep boys' basketball team, Robert Cartwright proved he could handle the numerous responsibilities given to him running the offense.
This season, Cartwright is looking to have a large impact shaping the Rebels' defense.
Cartwright provided a glimpse of his defensive capabilities on Wednesday, as he finished with a game-high seven steals to lead Flintridge Prep to an 88-60 pool-play victory against Sun Valley in the Falcon Classic at Crescenta Valley High.
“At all levels, coaches really care about how you play defense,” said Cartwright, a junior guard who also contributed a game-high 24 points, five assists and seven rebounds in three quarters. “I try to go out there and guard the other team's top players, and I've been working real hard since the summer concentrating on defense.
“We have the type of team where we want to get some steals and jump out early.”
That's precisely the script Flintridge Prep (1-2) followed against Sun Valley (0-3).
Cartwright, who helped Flintridge Prep win a CIF championship in 2011, notched five first-quarter steals to set the tone. His defensive awareness helped the Rebels, who won the Prep League championship last season, build a 34-14 lead after the first quarter.
Cartwright recorded a steal and scored on a layup to give the Rebels a 14-4 lead with 5:26 remaining in the first quarter. He then recorded a steal near midcourt and scored on a short jump shot to extend Flintridge Prep's lead to 43-24 with 3:19 left in the second quarter.
Flintridge Prep Coach Garrett Ohara, who received 12 points apiece from junior guard Stephen Chraghchian and senior forward Kareem Ismail, said Cartwright's defense in the first quarter helped the Rebels bounce back from earlier tournament defeats against Westlake and Hart.
“His defense has improved so much,” said Ohara, whose team held a 48-31 halftime advantage. “He's committed to defending, and he showed that in the first quarter.
“We like him to be able to pressure the ball and stay out of foul trouble.”
Cartwright made a three-pointer to give Flintridge Prep a 67-39 advantage with 1:54 left in the third quarter.
Junior guard Kyle Hamane and senior guard Jedrick Eugenio collected eight points apiece and freshman forward Andrew Tsangeos had eight rebounds, five assists and three steals for Flintridge Prep, which will next compete in the tournament's fifth-place contest at 4:45 p.m. Friday.
Sun Valley, a third-year team, got 20 points and eight rebounds from freshman guard Sean Rodriguez and 17 from senior guard Cesar Verduzco.