LA CAÑADA FLINTRIDGE — It started as an ordinary summer league boys' basketball game in Flintridge Prep's two-day tournament.
It turned into an intense contest that had the feel of a postseason showdown.
Flintridge Prep and St. Francis took turns griping about calls, taking leads, dealing out hard fouls, hitting clutch shots and trying to one-up each other.
St. Francis' Emerson Castaneda poured in a career-high 31 points, but was contained by a stifling Rebel defense in the final few minutes, allowing Flintridge Prep to come away with a 57-54 victory that sent the Golden Knights home frustrated and left the Rebels pleased.
"There was a good feel to this game," Rebel Coach Garrett Ohara said. "The kids know each other. The schools are really close to each other and the guys are friends with each other.
"Every single time we play St. Francis it's a good battle."
The Rebels seemed like they were going to turn the game into a runaway contest early in the first half.
Flintridge Prep used a 10-0 run during a five-minute stretch of the 14-minute first half to take a 13-3 lead. But that's when Castaneda began his offensive show.
He had 15 points in the first half, including hitting three three-pointers as St. Francis closed to within, 25-18, at the half.
"It was hard to stop him because he was on fire," said Rebel guard Kory Hamane, who had a team-high 14 points. "We tried to stay with him and not let him shoot as much as possible."
Flintridge Prep's defense didn't matter much until the final three minutes of the game, as Castaneda continued to score at will while the rest of his teammates struggled from the field.
"He's going to be our offensive leader for sure," said St. Francis co-Coach Jeff Stephens, who also received 10 points from Ben Maynard, nine from Zack Gardea and four from Jhamir Jenkins. "We're trying to find five guys who can do it. He had to step up."
Castaneda's play allowed the Golden Knights — who also defeated Glendale, 53-44, on Saturday — to take a 49-46 lead with three minutes to play. But neither Castaneda nor the Golden Knights scored for two minutes, as Flintridge Prep scored nine unanswered.
Hamane had five of those points, including a jumper that gave Flintridge Prep a 51-49 lead with 1:36 remaining. Kenyatta Smith (13 points) and Jordan Whaley (nine) also scored during the run.
"We were poised and made the right plays down the stretch," said Ohara, whose team defeated La Cañada, 61-49, earlier in the day. "We have confidence, not cockiness. We were able to score when we needed to."