SANTA ANA — The gamble paid off for the Flintridge Prep boys' basketball team at a time when Coach Garrett Ohara might have been second-guessed during a critical point of Saturday's CIF Southern Section Division V-AA championship game.
Ohara looked down the bench when senior forward Jared Norsworthy picked up his fourth personal foul with 3:53 left in the third quarter. Ohara considered the option of bring in Jordan Whaley to play a few minutes, but Norsworthy assured Ohara that he would not foul out and would help deliver the Rebels their first CIF crown.
"After that fourth foul, I looked at coach and asked him not to take me out," said Norsworthy, who finished with 14 points to help propel top-seeded Flintridge Prep to a 47-44 victory against third-seeded Muir at Mater Dei High. "I just said to please keep me in and I'm glad he did.
"I had no idea at first if he would keep me in, but, when he did, I wanted to make sure I could do things the right way."
Indeed Norsworthy, who entered the game averaging 12.2 points per game in the postseason, did.
He scored 10 third-quarter points and gave the Rebels (23-6) a much-needed boost to overcome the stingy Mustangs (18-11).
Immediately after his fourth foul, Norsworthy drove to the Muir basket and completed a three-point play to give the Rebels a 28-27 lead.
"We had struggled in the first half," Norsworthy said of the Rebels, who shot five of 24 from the floor in the first half and 17 of 48 overall. "That basket was big.
"You have to be mentally tough. I didn't want my emotions to get the best of me."
Ohara said he was glad he kept Norsworthy in and was relieved Norsworthy could finish the job.
"It was more a thing of trust," Ohara said. "He's a senior and it might have been sketchy at first leaving him in.
"I just felt Jared was our best option. In the third quarter, he got to the rim more. Everybody in the gym knew what he was going to do. He was weaving his way to the basket."
Norsworthy kept his composure despite the obvious adrenaline rush that most athletes encounter when competing on the biggest stage.
Norsworthy, who finished with nine rebounds, made a layup to give the Rebels a 36-34 lead with 1:02 left in the third quarter.
Like Ohara, many of the Rebels looked down the bench after Norsworthy's fourth foul.
Flintridge Prep senior center Kenyatta Smith said he knew Norsworthy would stay on the court.
"It was huge when he got that fourth foul," said Smith, who had a team-high 15 points, 17 rebounds and six blocks. "It was a tough, personal decision to make.
"He didn't want to come out and he found a way to keep his composure. For Jared, this was it for him."
Norsworthy scored one fourth-quarter point. He made the first of two free throws to give the Rebels a 45-44 lead with 2:40 left.
"I'm glad it all worked out in the end," said Norsworthy, who sported a CIF championship T-shirt and had the opportunity to hoist the championship plaque at center court in front of the Flintridge Prep fans. "A lot of hard work went into the season and it's very special to have the chance to win the first title for the program."