LA CAÑADA — A second chance was all the Flintridge Prep girls’ basketball team wanted.
After falling in the CIF Southern Section Division II-A semifinals, Flintridge Prep then had to wait to see if it would be a part of the state playoff picture.
The Rebels got in and took advantage in a big way.
Backed by huge performances from Kaitlyn Chen and Sofia Gonzalez, eighth-seeded Flintridge Prep rolled to a convincing 51-37 home win against ninth-seeded Santa Margarita in a CIF State Southern California Regional Division III contest Tuesday.
Flintridge Prep (25-3) received 20 points, 10 rebounds, four assists and three steals from Chen, the reigning All-Area Girls’ Basketball Player of the Year. The Rebels, making their third appearances in the state playoffs in the last four seasons, also got 14 points and five assists from Gonzalez to eliminate Santa Margarita (20-11).
Flintridge Prep, which won its sixth straight Prep League championship, will face No. 1 Mark Keppel (24-6) in a second-round road game at 7 p.m. Thursday.
“We’re definitely glad that we are in the state playoffs and it gave us a little more than a week to get in some practices,” said Chen, who had 10 first-half points to help the Rebels build a 29-18 halftime lead. “It’s another opportunity after we lost to [top-seeded and champion] Lakeside, so we came out and did a lot of things well tonight.
“I think we came out and we were all locked in to play. Lets just try to make a run at winning state.”
Flintridge Prep, which advanced to the semifinals for the fifth time since the start of the 2012-13 season, never trailed against Santa Margarita, which fell in the Division II-A semifinals to No. 2 Oxford Academy.
Chen gave the Rebels a lead with 38 seconds left in the first quarter to make it 14-9 before teammate Madison Manning closed out the quarter with a basket to give the Rebels a 16-9 advantage.
Chen, a junior guard, made a short jump-shot to extend Flintridge Prep’s lead to 20-11 with 6:02 remaining in the second quarter off an assist from Gonzalez, a reigning All-Area selection.
“We came out and had a lot of fun,” said Gonzalez, a sophomore forward who contributed six rebounds “We played very well in the second quarter. That’s when we got it going.
“It’s good to still be playing. You try to take advantage of it.”
A three-pointer by Andie Kim of Flintridge Prep gave the Rebels a 35-25 lead with 4:35 to play in the third quarter. With 32 seconds to go in the framw, Chen drove to the basket for a bucket to make it 40-29.
Chen scored on a layup to give Flintridge Prep, who improved to 10-1 in its last 11 contests, a 47-29 lead with 5:20 to go in the fourth quarter.
The Rebels played steady defense in the second half, limiting the Eagles, who took fourth in the Trinity League, to 19 points.
“We talked at halftime about some of the things we needed to accomplish on defense,” said Flintridge Prep co-coach Kevin Kiyomura, who got four assists apiece from Kim and Ashlyn Zhang. “We needed to do a better job at contesting the shots and holding [Santa Margarita] to only one shot [per possession].
“We wanted to rebound from the loss to Lakeside. When Kaitlyn is able to score and distribute by getting everybody involved, then we are a pretty tough team to beat. We are excited to be able to go up against Mark Keppel. Both teams play a similar style.”