LA CAÑADA FLINTRIDGE — While visible in a few brief flashes, the full force of the Flintridge Prep girls' basketball team's offense just couldn't break through the tall trees of Paso Robles.
Despite weathering long stretches without scoring, the host Rebels rallied to trail by just four at halftime and got within five points with just over three minutes left in Thursday night's CIF Southern Section Division 4-AA opener. But their scoring surges proved hard to sustain in the face of the Bearcats' size advantage and, in the end, Prep could get no closer than the 42-32 final score.
"We are so out-heighted by them at pretty much every position and we're such a three-point shooting team that we need that space to get those shots off," Prep Coach Todd Frost said. "Give them credit, they knew that's what we wanted to do and they really wanted to come out and make sure we didn't get those open looks.
"When we were penetrating and kicking it out, that's when we got the open looks and that's when the shots were falling, but we didn't do that consistently enough."
After trailing by as many 14 points early in the fourth quarter, Prep went on a 9-0 run fueled entirely by three-pointers. Mya Okamoto, who led the Rebels with 12 points, sparked the run with a deep ball at the 5:45 mark and Katherine Bogaard hit from long range 45 seconds later to bring the Rebels within eight.
With 3:10 left to play, Okamoto drove the lane and found Kimberly Kim open on the perimeter to bring Prep within five at 33-28, as close as it had been since it trailed, 17-13, at halftime.
But Paso Robles' height came into play once again, as the Bearcats' next two baskets were on putbacks in the paint. With the lead back up to nine, Prep went to its full-court press, which was broken for two easy game-clinching layups by Molly Donovan, who led Paso Robles with 24 points and 15 rebounds.
"We had some opportunities, we got some shots and they were able to get a couple of layups down there late and just kind of separate that gap," Frost said. "It just didn't happen."
"We hardly got any offensive boards on our end. When they got offensive boards, they put it right back up."
Prep didn't score its first point until the 7:20 mark of the second quarter, on a free throw by Kristin Shum, and its first field goal didn't come until the 4:20 mark of the second period. But despite the Rebels' disastrous start, the Bearcats hadn't been able to completely run away with the game, leading, 16-3, three and a half minutes before the half. Sparked by a Kim three-pointer, an Okamoto steal and pull-up three and a jumper by Bogaard, the Rebels mounted a 10-1 run to close out the half.
"I'm not sure a lot of people thought at the beginning of the year that we would be here," Frost said. "It's a testament to them and their learning and their growth that they've made form the beginning of the season until now."