GLENDALE â€” Their play continued to peak at the right time as the CIF Southern Section Division V-AA playoffs unfolded and for the members of the Flintridge Prep girls' basketball team, Wednesday's quarterfinal was no exception from that trend.
Although the Rebels saw their playoff run end one win short of a third straight semifinal appearance with a 69-48 loss at Santa Maria St. Joseph, they held the top-seeded Knights 32 points below their playoff average and gave their host the unfamiliar experience â€” at least as far as this postseason goes â€” of a competitive game going into the fourth quarter.
Fueled by a strong third-quarter run and accurate outside shooting throughout, led by 18 points from guard Kelsey Merchant, Prep entered the final period just seven points behind St. Joseph.
But that's where the power of the Knights trumped the pluck of the Rebels, as St. Joseph quickly pulled away and put the finishing touches on a win paced by 20 points from Ane' McPike and 17 from Alyson Beebe.
â€œThey're a really good team and you've gotta be careful with them â€” we made some turnovers [in the fourth quarter] that they were able to turn into some easy baskets,â€ Prep Coach Kenny Fisher said. â€œWe fought back all the way down to the last four minutes or so, then they made another little run and that was it.â€
Trailing, 35-20, at halftime after St. Joseph (26-2) made a similar run to swell a one-point lead going into the second quarter, Prep (16-12) made its move in the third quarter.
Behind three-point baskets from Merchant, Megan Musashi and Alina Khodadian, the Rebels whittled the lead down to 46-39 with a 19-11 run.
â€œWe moved the ball around their zone, we got open looks and we knocked a lot of them down,â€ Fisher said.
Musashi and Khodadian, finished with 12 and 11 points, respectively, as Khodadian concluded a distinguished career at Prep that included a 2007 finals run and last year's semifinal appearance.
Junior forward Deanna Watson finished with five points and 13 rebounds for Prep, which finished third in the Prep League.
â€œOne step away from the semis,â€ Fisher said. â€œWe got a tougher draw this time. Another draw and we probably would have been in the semis with the way we are playing now.
â€œI'm just happy that we all got it together and played hard and ended the season on a positive note.â€