LA CANADA — In the jockeying atop the Prep League girls’ basketball standings, Flintridge Prep held onto its title of No. 1 contender to four-time reigning league champion Pasadena Poly with perhaps its biggest league victory to date.
The CIF Southern Section Division V-AA fourth-ranked Rebels employed an absolutely smothering defense in forcing 27 turnovers and 27% shooting from visiting Division IV-A 12th-ranked Westridge in an important 53-42 victory Thursday afternoon on senior day.
The Rebels (14-5 overall, 7-1 in league) remain one game behind Poly in the loss column (16-5, 9-0) as the two teams will meet at 3:30 p.m. Saturday at Pasadena Poly. Before that contest, though, the Rebels have a middle game of a tough three-day, three-game stretch at Rio Hondo Prep (10-8, 3-6) at 4:30 p.m. Friday.
As for the Tigers (10-4, 7-3), they’re still in the mix for second place and host the Rebels at 5 p.m. next Tuesday.
“I think we just made Westridge’s ball-handlers a little bit uncomfortable. We were trying to get them off their spots and doing things they don’t normally do,” Rebels Coach Kevin Kiyomura said. “We mixed up our presses and they worked well.”
Kiyomura utilized a zone press among a mixture of defenses that successfully funneled the ball away from the Tigers’ towering twosome of 6-foot-1 Carmen Costa and 5-10 Courtney Sloan, who combined for 10 points, while only attempting 11 shots.
Flintridge Prep led, 26-16, at the half and successfully put the game away by winning the third quarter, 14-7.
Westridge pulled to within 30-19 after a free throw from senior guard Lili Lim (seven points and three steals) with 5:04 remaining in the third when the Rebels responded with a 10-2 flurry from Flintridge Prep’s own pair of 5-11 Kinsey Thompson and 5-9 Tala Ismail.
Both girls scored four points apiece, with Ismail (five steals) scoring four of her team-high 14 points on back-to-back jumpers with 2:12 remaining that put the Rebels up 40-21.
While Westridge responded with an offensive rebound and put back from Sloan, the Rebels answered with the first two buckets of the fourth quarter in taking a commanding 44-23 advantage with 6:06 remaining.
To their credit, the Tigers attempted one final surge and mounted an 11-2 run capped by a three-pointer from game-high scorer Erin Golden (17 points) with 2:59 left that brought Westridge within 46-34.
Yet, Flintridge Prep bounced back with its own 7-1 spurt highlighted by a three-pointer from senior Laurie Hayrapetian with 1:42 left that put the Rebels comfortably ahead 53-35.
“We learned a lot about what Flintridge Prep can do and can’t do for next time,” Tigers Coach Melanie Horn said. “I’m extremely proud of our effort in the second half, especially when it started to look like the game [was getting away]. We were able to come back and make it a little bit closer.”
The Tigers led, 7-1, after a jumper from Lim with 4:10 remaining but did not convert a field goal for the next 12 minutes until Golden drained a straight away three-pointer with 10 seconds left in the second quarter to bring the Tigers within 26-16.
In the meanwhile, the Rebels harassed the Tigers, forcing 16 turnovers and making it difficult for Westridge guards to even cross half court.
“It was great to get this win. We knew we had to win if we wanted to get a good spot for playoffs,” said Rebels sophomore Lacy Coan, who finished with seven points and three steals. “We had to go our hardest and make it hard for them and we did that.”