PASADENA — After matching Flintridge Prep bucket for bucket for most of the second half, the Maranatha High boys' basketball team seemed just a few stops away from possibly making Thursday night's nonleague meeting a close finish.
Instead, the key stops down the stretch were made by the Rebels, who made sure their double-digit lead stayed secure by holding the Minutemen scoreless for a key three-minute span late in the fourth quarter and held on for a comfortable 70-59 win.
“The key to that stretch, or part of it, is when our offense executes it doesn’t allow some of those transition things and we get able to set our defense,” said Prep Coach Garrett Ohara, whose team was led by 18 points and five assists from point guard Robert Cartwright. “When we took care of the ball and we made some shots that was key.”
From the point that Maranatha’s Caylan Swinney (10 points) scored on a jumper to make it a 10-point game, 60-50, with 3:35 left in the fourth, the Rebels (4-2) themselves only scored four more points over the next 3:20, but they didn’t turn the ball over and deliberately ran precious time off the clock with each possession. Jedrick Eugenio got a big offensive rebound for the Rebels with 2:00 left and his team up by 14 that all but ended the Minutemen’s hopes.
Jeremy Major, who led Maranatha with 17 points, knocked down a three-pointer with 29 seconds left to finally break the Minutemen’s drought, but by that time all they could do was foul to stop the clock. The Rebels foiled that ploy, as well, finishing 25 of 27 from the line on the night, including a perfect 12 for 12 from Kyle Hamane (14 points).
After building a five-point lead at the end of the first quarter into a 40-26 halftime lead, the Rebels kept the edge at 14 points going into the fourth after leading by as many as 16 twice.
“I didn’t feel like we’ve been practicing hard, and that’s my fault,” Maranatha Coach Tim Godley said. “I didn’t feel like we warmed up hard, but our offensive execution in the halfcourt is not very good right now, and they’re a very good basketball team. We had 17 turnovers and they had five for the game, you’ve got to take care of the basketball.”
Cartwright sparked the Rebels with eight points in the first quarter, but no sooner had he hit on a three-pointer to give his team a 31-21 lead with just under three minutes left in the first half, he was whistled for his third foul.
Although he was done for the remainder of the half, Cartwright came back in the third to score eight more points, including back-to-back threes late in the quarter that gave Prep a 48-33 lead.
Although he continued to play with controlled aggression on offense and was assigned with matching up against Major a good deal of the time on the other end, the Minutemen could only succeed in getting one more foul called on Cartwright, with 2:32 left and the game all but lost.
“We were saying that in the timeouts and on the court to whoever he was guarding and we didn’t have the court awareness to try and go do that,” Godley said of going after Cartwright.
Cartwright credited his teammates with holding the lead while he was on the bench and with carrying out a solid game plan for closing out Major and the Minutemen.
“Jeremy Major’s a fantastic player, I’ve been playing against him for many years and we knew if we could contain him to the best of our ability, we would have a good chance of winning this game,” Cartwright said. “We wanted to make other guys who were not as proven make some tough shots and we did that. We played pretty good defense and we got pretty good shots there and we were able to win the game. It‘s another nice win for us.”
It was the second win over a CIF Southern Section Division 4-AA-ranked opponent in as many games for Division 5-AA No. 2-ranked Prep, which beat sixth-ranked La Salle on Tuesday. The Minutemen (4-2), who got 13 points from Jalen Jones and 10 from Michael DeMeester, are ranked 12th in Division 4-AA.