LA CAÑADA — Things were tense in the Flintridge Prep boys' basketball team's corner at halftime of its CIF Southern Section Division V-AA opener against visiting Avalon Wednesday.
The second-seeded Rebels were playing far from their heavy-favorite status with a seven-point lead at halftime. They changed that and came out with plenty of intensity out of the break with defense leading to what wound up being a lopsided 69-48 victory for Prep.
The Rebels will now hit the road to face the winner of Wednesday’s Desert Christian-Providence High in the second round Friday.
“At halftime, us players kind of just talked amongst ourselves,” said Flintridge Prep point guard Robert Cartwright, who finished with a game-high 22 points. “We were very disappointed in the way we played. I’ll be very honest, I was very disappointed with my play and our team’s play.”
Cartwright and the Rebels made up for it in the second half. He hit a three-pointer 15 seconds into the third quarter to give Prep a 10-point lead, 37-27. He added two more buckets off steals and layups in a 32-second span to give Flintridge Prep a 41-30 advantage.
Avalon was finally forced to call a timeout when the Rebels’ Jedrick Eugenio (12 points) poked a ball loose that was scooped up by Kyle Hamane and outletted to Chadd Cosse for an easy layin and 45-32 Rebels lead with 5:11 to play in the third.
“I don’t think overall we played that much better [in the second half],” said Cartwright, who had six steals, five assists and five rebounds in the game. “We just had to come out a little harder and that was it.”
Prep center Kareem Ismail, who sat all but 3:56 of the first half with two fouls, said the Rebels came out with no energy and expecting a win. A renewed defensive focus helped Flintridge Prep turn the game around for good.
“They only have two main players, we just had to focus on those two,” Ismail said of Avalon’s Edgar Alvarez and Gabe Hernandez and his team’s ability to force 13 steals in the second half. “They were running a flex cut, so we were just focusing on them.”
Ismail (14 points, five rebounds, three blocks) scored Prep’s next six points out of the timeout. Cartwright sent the home team into the final quarter with a comfortable 56-41 cushion when he drained a three from the corner with six ticks left in the frame.
The Lancers (11-12) would come no closer with Cosse scoring six of his 11 points in the fourth.
Flintridge Prep Coach Garrett Ohara had a simple explanation for what was a close game early.
“I just thought it’s a team coming in knowing they have nothing to lose and they’re going to give us their best shot,” said Ohara, who thought it was a good experience for his team to have going into what is hopefully a deep run. “We know that seeds don’t help you win. We’ve experienced first-round home losses before, so we were able to avoid that.”
Avalon never led in the game, but was down just one, 15-14, with 47 seconds left in the opening quarter after consecutive field goals from Hernandez (14 points, seven rebounds).
Flintridge Prep went on an 11-1 run from there, holding a 26-15 lead when Avalon called a timeout about two and a half minutes into the second quarter. The Lancers regrouped and pulled within four, 26-22, with a 7-0 run that was capped off by an Alvarez (16 points, seven rebounds) three with 2:27 to go in the half.
“We know now that the No. 2 seed does not mean anything,” Cartwright said. “If we want to win this we’re going to have to come every single game with our best effort. … This is a good thing.”