BURBANK — It might have been the matchup between Flintridge Prep and Providence High point guards that was most anticipated, but the CIF Southern Section Division V-AA showdown was won down low Wednesday.
In particular, it was the play of Rebels center Kareem Ismail in the fourth quarter that turned an 11-point, third-quarter lead into a 67-49 nonleague blowout win for Prep on Providence's home floor.
While the large crowd that gathered for the game may have been focusing on Pioneers point guard Marcus LoVett Jr. and Rebels guard Robert Cartwright, Prep Coach Garrett Ohara knew where the game would need to be won.
“We told them, I thought we had the advantage offensively with our bigs and they did that,” said Ohara, whose team is ranked second in Division V-AA. “They went a little small to try and combat us and I think we were able to take advantage of that – still defend them with our bigs and on the offensive end by getting the ball inside.”
Ismail sat most of the third quarter after picking up his third foul, but made up for lost time in the final quarter. The senior logged 11 of his game-high 18 points and five of his 10 rebounds and altered a number of Providence (8-14) shots over the final eight minutes.
“I was in foul trouble early in the game, so I just had to stand there and go straight up,” Ismail said of his fourth-quarter defense. “I was just in the zone, really, getting boards and putting them in. This was a big game. We needed to get this win to keep our standings for playoffs. I just knew where to be in the right time, I guess.”
Ismail scored the first four points of the quarter and Harrison Jung added a bucket – after grabbing a defensive rebound and pushing it for an easy layup – to give the Rebels the first six points of the fourth and a 47-30 lead with 6:40 to play.
The Pioneers, who are No. 10 in Division V-AA, got no easy looks at the basket with Ismail and Prep forward Chadd Cosse clogging the lane. Providence was out rebounded, 13-8, in that span and failed to notch consecutive buckets over the final eight minutes, which made a comeback impossible.
LoVett Jr. had eight points in the final quarter to finish with a team-high 18, with 12 of them coming at the free-throw line.
While Providence Coach Ernest Baskerville credited the difference in the game to his team's poor defense and rebounding, he took issue with how the game was officiated.
“It was a physical game, I think they got away with a lot of extracurriculars and we didn't,” he said. “We tried to match their physicality, but they wouldn't let us play the same physical nature they were.
“Still, the referees didn’t not put the ball in the basket, the referees weren't not boxing out. I don't blame the refs, but if [LoVett Jr.] gets hurt I'm going to be upset they're not protecting him a little bit more.”
Neither side could distance itself in the first half, as there were five ties and neither team led by more than six points in the opening 16 minutes. Trailing, 14-11, after the first quarter, the Rebels (16-5) took a 26-20 lead going into halftime thanks to 7-0 and 6-0 runs in the second.
Providence's Christian Ware-Berry (11 points, 10 rebounds) gave the home team a 16-11 lead – the biggest lead of the game to that point – when he knocked down a corner jumper 16 seconds into the second quarter.
Prep responded with a 7-0 run that come off a Tyler Weakland three-pointer and layups from Cartwright (12 points) and Jedrick Eugenio (16 points) to capture the lead, 18-16, two minutes into the frame.
Tied at 20 with 3:18 to play in the first half, the Rebels put together three straight baskets – two from Cartwright – to take a six-point lead and wave of momentum into the intermission.
Cartwright had just six points in the first half, but began to heat up and matched that output in the third quarter, which finished with Prep up, 41-30.
It was in the fourth quarter where the Rebels put the game away, though.
“We didn't rebound, we didn't defend,” Baskerville said of what the difference was in the final eight minutes. “In the fourth quarter we just, I don't know, I don't want to say my team laid down, but that's what it looked like to me, and that's sad because that's not how I coach. Hopefully, we can bounce back.”