LA CAÑADA FLINTRIDGE — Surrounded by a throng of ardent fans inside the chilly La Cañada High gymnasium on a rainy Friday night, Flintridge Prep boys' basketball player Jared Norsworthy offered an observation on Jedrick Eugenio.
"Jedrick's first shot in a game is usually a three-pointer, and when it goes in, he gets himself and the team going," said Norsworthy, a senior forward, of the sophomore guard.
Norsworthy was spot on with his observation after Eugenio and the Rebels showed why they are the No. 1 seed in the CIF Southern Section Division V-AA playoffs.
Simply put, the Rebels followed Eugenio's lead.
Eugenio had 11 first-quarter points and 18 overall to spark Flintridge Prep to an 86-72 semifinal victory against fourth-seeded Mission Prep. Eugenio made three three-pointers in the opening stanza. After each basket, Eugenio's adrenaline rose, culminated by a fist pump.
"I just go out there and try to find a way to help us win," Eugenio said. "What I did in the first quarter gave us momentum.
"I've been shooting with a lot of confidence lately and I've been feeling good about myself in the playoffs. Now, we want to keep it going."
The Rebels (22-6) will next face neighbor and third-seeded Muir in the championship game Friday or March 5 at Mater Dei High's Meruelo Athletic Center. The Rebels will make their first finals appearance since 2004, when they fell to Verbum Dei, 73-48, in the Division IV-A title game at Loyola Marymount University. That Flintridge Prep squad featured the powerful 1-2 punch of Tim Mercer and Ramses Barden, who is now a wide receiver on the New York Giants.
Now, it's Eugenio trying to make a name for himself at the most opportune time.
After Eugenio set the tone for the Rebels, who shared the Prep League championship with rival Pasadena Poly, his teammates got hot in turning back Mission Prep (18-11).
"For a sophomore, he's playing with so much confidence," Flintridge Prep Coach Garret Ohara said. "He's ready for the big stage like this.
"He showed that he could shoot, much less make, some big shots. He embraced the pressure. He had opportunities to step up and produce and he definitely responded to it."
Eugenio recorded a steal and layup that helped extend Flintridge Prep's lead to 32-16 with 3:14 left in the second quarter. He then completed his offensive performance with a three-pointer as the buzzer sounded to end the third quarter to make it 65-38. Ohara took Eugenio out of the game with 7:25 left in the fourth quarter.
"It means a lot to have a big game, but I want to get Flintridge Prep back on the map and we are there," said Eugenio, who registered four assists. "I want to keep that confidence and I know I can do that."