LA CANADA — After being dealt two first-round exits in the past three CIF Southern Section Division postseasons by Santa Clara High, vengeance was on the mind of Flintridge Prep boys' basketball team when the Saints visited for a Division V-AA quarterfinal contest.
Robert Cartwright, Prep's standout point guard, definitely had a statement he wanted to make. The junior scored 21 of his game-high 26 points in the first half and led the Rebels to a dominating 77-47 victory.
“I hope it wasn't in all our heads, but in my head personally, it certainly was,” Cartwright said. “I looked at it as a revenge game. We did not play well at all last year and we needed to come out and play hard and we did that and got a nice win. Now we're in the semifinals, we're excited and ready to go.”
Flintridge Prep (22-5) moved onto the semifinals to take on the winner of the Mission Prep-Saddleback Valley Christian quarterfinal contest. The Rebels would host Mission Prep or travel to Saddleback Valley Christian with tip-off scheduled for 7 p.m. Friday.
Santa Clara (16-12) spoiled the Rebels' chance at a Division V-AA championship repeat last year after it knocked them off at Flintridge Prep, 55-48, in the first round. In 2010, the Saints also got the best of a favored Rebels team with a 46-44 victory in the CIF opener.
“It's something we talked about, 'That's in the past, this is your team now,'“ said Flintridge Prep Coach Garrett Ohara, whose team forced 13 turnovers. “I think we're a lot better in terms of our match-ups with them this year.”
Santa Clara came out strongest in the opening first minute and 19 seconds, taking a 6-0 point lead out of the gate. Cartwright brought his team back, scoring eight of Prep's first 15 points to put the home team ahead, 15-13, with 2:15 left in the first quarter.
Albeit early, the turning point in the game came with 2:00 remaining in the opening frame when Santa Clara forward Arman Momin committed his second foul of the game as Cartwright went for a layup.
Momin argued the call and was handed a technical foul in the process. Cartwright, who also had six assists, five steals and five rebounds, made all four free throws and followed that with a layup on a sharp cut to the basket to cap a six-point swing and put Prep in front, 19-13.
“It was big because we got free throws for the foul, we made the free throws on the technical and then Rob got a basket, too,” Ohara said. “That did give us a nice little gap right there.”
Momin, a 6-foot-4 senior who finished with 13 points and seven rebounds, sat for the rest of the first half with three fouls and the Rebels’ big men took advantage.
“When they got that tech, emotions were high and they were kind of playing sloppy, so we had to take advantage of that,” Prep forward Chadd Cosse said. “That's a big guy, so when [Momin] went out it opened up a lot of drives, penetrate, kicks and opened up a lot of our shooters, putbacks and offensive boards. It really opened it up a lot for us.”
The Saints were out rebounded, 16-5, in the second quarter – 25-12 in the first half – with Momin on the bench. Both Flintridge Prep posts Kareem Ismail (12 points, 13 rebounds, two blocks) and Chadd Cosse (eight points, nine rebounds) flirted with or had a double-double.
“We knew [Momin] was a very good player, so the fact he had three fouls so early obviously wasn't good for them,” said Cartwright, who also had six assists, five steals and five rebounds in the game. “We took advantage; Kareem and Chadd played huge, as usual. If they're playing like that, I don't think we're going to lose.”
The Rebels embarked on a 21-2 run, carrying over from the first to second quarter, with Momin on the bench to go into halftime with an 18-point, 38-20. Cartwright logged 13 points in that span.
Santa Clara scored just five points in the second quarter – after putting up 15 in the first – with Momin off the floor. The Saints also committed six of their 13 turnovers in the second frame.
“Without [Momin], he's a big part of their offense as well,” Ohara said. “Pretty much [Carlos Perez] and [D'Andre Jones] tried to do most of the scoring, it just put a lot more pressure on those guys to make shots.”
Perez and Jones finished with 17 and 12 points, respectively, for Santa Clara.
Ismail imposed his presence in the third quarter, as he put up eight points, five rebounds and a block in the eight-minute frame.
Despite subbing in his entire bench in the fourth quarter, Ohara's squad still managed to match Santa Clara for 16 points over the final eight minutes.
“It was kind of a revenge game,” Cosse said. “We really wanted to try to win this one, maybe a little bit more than the other ones.”