LA CAÑADA FLINTRIDGE — For the second time in three seasons, the Flintridge Prep boys' basketball team was left stunned at home at the hands of a tough Santa Clara squad.
Just like they did in 2010, the Saints used a blistering defense and an efficient offense to upset the Rebels.
Flintridge Prep, also the Prep League champs, trailed for all but two minutes in a 55-48 first-round setback that ended its hopes of repeating as CIF Southern Section Division 5AA champions.
"It hurts a lot," said Rebels sophomore guard Robert Cartwright, a member of last year's championship team. "I just want to keep playing. I just want to keep fighting."
Cartwright did his part to keep the Rebels (17-8) — who lost to Santa Clara, 46-44, in 2010 — close with the Saints (8-19).
He finished with a game-high 23 points and had a pair of steals, but he was also a part of a number of Rebels who struggled from three-point territory. Flintridge Prep, described as a "good three-point shooting team," by Santa Clara Coach Kevin Thompson, was six of 28 (21.4%) from three-point range.
"We had a lot of open looks," Cartwright said. "It just didn't go in for us. There was a lid on the basket. We didn't utilize the post enough. We didn't hit our shots like we normally do."
Santa Clara was certainly more effective than the Rebels.
The Saints were 14 of 27 (51.8%) from the field in the second half, exploding for 37 points in the final 16 minutes after making just eight shots in the opening half.
"[In the first half], we got away from our character of being fundamentally sound and being poised and playing team basketball," Thompson said. "In the second half, we went back to fundamental basketball and went out and executed."
Santa Clara needed four minutes to take back control of the game to start the second half.
It trailed by two in the last two minutes of the first half, but started the third quarter with a 7-0 run that gave the Saints a five-point lead. Cartwright tied the score at 25 with three minutes left in the third, but Santa Clara's Brandon Perez answered with the second of his three three-pointers of the quarter to give the Saints a lead they wouldn't relinquish.
"They played well," Cartwright said. "They wanted it more. They made their shots."
Flintridge Prep Coach Garrett Ohara wished his team made more shots. He also would've liked to have better balance. Chadd Cosse had 11 points and 12 rebounds, and senior Kory Hamane had 10 points, but Cosse, Hamane and Cartwright were the only Rebels to score through three quarters.
"We're better than what we shot tonight," he said. "Our shots didn't fall and we didn't defend too well. It's hard to win a game when you don't shoot well."