LA CAÑADA — Having seen a double-digit lead nearly vanish in the waning moments, the Flintridge Prep girls’ basketball team needed to quickly regroup on defense in order to win the La Cañada High Tournament on Saturday.
Flintridge Prep got what it needed, along with a huge effort on both ends of the court from Kaitlyn Chen.
Chen, the reigning All-Area Girls’ Basketball Player of the Year, finished with 16 points and 14 rebounds to propel Flintridge Prep to a 47-44 win against La Cañada in the tournament’s championship contest.
It certainly didn’t come easy for Flintridge Prep (13-1), which saw La Cañada (14-4) nearly complete a furious comeback. The Rebels held a 37-27 lead entering the fourth quarter and saw the Spartans pull to within 46-44 with 45.7 seconds left on a basket by Emmie Lew.
Flintridge Prep missed a shot with 16.9 seconds to go and called timeout. A three-point shot by La Cañada’s Brooke Yasuda missed in the closing seconds. Chen was then fouled and made one of two free throws with less than a second remaining to seal the victory.
“It was definitely a great game,” Flintridge Prep co-coach Kevin Kiyomura, said. “It’s a game that came down to free throws and making a stop on defense at the end and we got both when we needed to.
“La Cañada made a great comeback, but we felt like we still had a pulse.”
Chen, who helped the Rebels win the Prep League championship and advance to the CIF Southern Section Division III-A championship game last season, had 13 points in the first half. Chen made three free throws in the fourth quarter to deny the Spartans a shot at a fourth straight tournament championship.
Chen, a junior forward, expected a surge from the Spartans.
“They have such a good team and they did what they had to do to get back into the game,” said Chen, who was named the tournament’s most valuable player. “We knew we’d have to get that last stop to have a chance.
“We were trying to move the ball and run the clock. This was a game that should help us for the playoffs.”
The Spartans, who have won three Rio Hondo League titles in a row, made four three-pointers in the fourth quarter to trim the deficit. Lauren Scoville (12 points, eight rebounds and three blocks) made the final three-pointer to bring the Spartans to within 46-42 with 1:40 to play.
“We made a great comeback and we gave ourselves a chance,” La Cañada first-year coach Owen Keenan said. “We were down [31-18] at halftime and I told our players that I liked where we were and we still had a shot at winning.
“I thought we played solid defense in the second half and we just came up a little short against a very good team.”
Flintridge Prep, ranked No. 6 in Division II-A, received eight points apiece from Sofia Gonzalez and Andie Kim, seven from Madison Manning. Alex Kyriakakis added eight rebounds for the Rebels en route to receiving an all-tournament nod.