Rebels still have playoff touch

LA CAÑADA FLINTRIDGE — While a third-place finish in the Prep League is hardly standard fare for the Flintridge Prep girls’ basketball team, any ideas that the Rebels program is slipping have likely been proven false.

Further evidence was put on display Saturday evening at Flintridge Prep, as the Rebels, seeded 10th in the CIF Southern Section Division V-AA tournament, made easy work of eighth-seeded Cantwell Sacred Heart of Mary, 55-39.

“We came out and we played well,” said Rebels Coach Kenny Fisher, whose team never trailed, building an 8-1 lead early and a commanding 33-14 advantage at the half. “We’re getting there, we’re coming along.

“We’re an experienced bunch. They know it’s about being poised. ...They came out and did it, they did everything we asked of them.”

Prep (16-11), which is set to travel to face No. 1-seeded Santa Maria St. Joseph on Wednesday, saw its run of 44 straight league wins come to an end this year, falling four times in league play, as its string of seven league titles fell to the wayside. None of that showed on Saturday against Sacred Heart (20-9), though, as the Rebels advanced to the quarterfinals for the third straight season.

“It’s very rewarding,” said Fisher of his team’s CIF success in spite of the Prep League pitfalls. “It was tough on us, it was tough on the girls.

“Those things happen.”

As for the Rebels’ playoff success as opposed to league, it might simply be teamwork and the aforementioned fast start.

“I think we’re doing a better team job,” said senior Alina Khodadian. “And starting off better, that’s one big difference.”

Khodadian was one of the three Rebels to score in double-digits, tallying 17 points to go with seven rebounds and three steals. Megan Musashi added a team-high 18 points to go with 11 rebounds and two blocks, while Deanna Watson notched 12 points, 10 rebounds and three steals.

Khodadian hit a runner with just two seconds left in the first quarter to put Prep up 15-7 as part of a 7-0 run.

Earlier in the quarter, Sacred Heart scored on consecutive field goals to pull within 8-5 with 3:58 left in the quarter. It was the last time until the 2:16 mark of the third quarter that the Cardinals strung together consecutive points.

In between, the Rebels outscored the Cardinals, 36-12, using an efficient passing game to work inside, taking high-percentage shots and getting to the free-throw line.

For all intents and purposes, the Rebels put the game away in the first half, shooting an impressive 10 of 19 (53%) from the floor, while a pesky Prep defense and a free-shooting Sacred Heart offense combined to see the Cardinals go six of 23 (26%) from the floor in the first half. It didn’t get any better, as the Cardinals made 13 of 55 shots (24%) in the game.

“Coach said they liked to shoot threes, so we weren’t that surprised,” said Musashi of the Cardinals’ willingness to shoot at any time from anywhere on the court.

The Rebels also used their size advantage to dominate the boards, pulling down 39 rebounds to the Cardinals’ 20.

It all added up to a surprisingly lopsided victory for Prep.

“I thought it was gonna be close, especially since they were the eighth seed and we were the 10th,” Musashi said.

But when Watson banked in a running three-pointer from just inside the half-court line at the end of the third quarter, the Rebel faithful was on its feet and Prep had an insurmountable 49-24 lead.

Sacred Heart outscored Prep, 15-6, in the final stanza to make the final score a lot closer than the majority of the game was.

The Rebels are fully aware that top-seeded St. Joseph, which beat Santa Ana Calvary Chapel, 83-28, on Saturday, will pose a much tougher challenge, however, not to mention a 340-mile roundtrip.

Said Khodadian: “Underdogs have advantages, too.”

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