St. Bernard stands in Prep's way

GLENDALE — Fresh off dropping nearly 100 points on overmatched Tranquility in the first round Tuesday, the Flintridge Prep boys' basketball team will now face a team that's flirted with scoring in triple digits several times itself this season when the CIF State Division V Championships resume at 7 p.m. today at St. Francis High.

Players and coaches alike from second-seeded Prep say their second-round opponent, St. Bernard, reminds them of two of the best teams they have faced this season — Muir, which the Rebels defeated on Saturday for the CIF Southern Section Division 5-AA title, and Sierra Canyon, the No.1 seed in the Southern California Bracket.

Suffice to say, the Rebels are taking the attitude that this certainly won't be another cakewalk.

"[This game] should be a lot tougher than it was [Tuesday]," said Rebels senior forward Jared Norsworthy, who was one of 12 Rebels to score in the 98-32 win over Tranquility. "St. Bernard has been ranked pretty high all year, so it should be a good game between us two."

St. Bernard (23-8), which lost to Montclair Prep in the Division 5-A semifinals, has scored in the 90s four times this year and is averaging 71.5 points per game, led by 19.1 points per game from sophomore swingman Brandon Randolph. Forward Thurman Thomas adds 15.7 points per game.

"[Randolph] is able to get to the basket, he's able to shoot a high percentage," Prep Coach Garrett Ohara said.

That athleticism also shows in the Vikings' defense, which figures to trap and press and attempt to force turnovers from the start.

"They're a pretty athletic team, they're pretty similar to Sierra Canyon," said Norsworthy, whose team lost to Sierra Canyon, 73-71, on Feb. 7. "They have a lot of guards and they'll probably press us, so it will be a very up-tempo game.

"We feel comfortable because it was similar to that when we played Muir and Sierra Canyon. …As long as we just stay relaxed and limit our turnovers, we should be fine."

With speedy guards Robert Cartwright and Kory Hamane, as well as wing players Jedrick Eugenio and Norsworthy, Prep (24-6) is capable of matching St. Bernard's up-tempo game effectively, especially with 6-foot-8 center Kenyatta Smith's ability to rebound and find streaking teammates in transition. But one big advantage the Rebels have is Smith himself, who is averaging a double-double in points and rebounds in the playoffs, and his dominance in the post.

A more methodical, patient approach to the running the offense often sees Prep do its best work when the ball runs through Smith.

Against Muir, a sped-up first half seemed to favor the Mustangs more and the Rebels weren't able to take control of the game until they reset the tempo in their favor in the second half.

"Seeing [the Vikings] on tape, they're similar to a Muir team, they're athleticism is pretty striking," Ohara said. "They're a little bit bigger and their guards score a little bit better, but it's going to be an up-and-down, faster tempo game and I don't think the pressure of a CIF final or that sort of thing will be there."

Another plus for the Rebels is the ever-improving play of those around Smith.

Cartwright, who hit a big shot to extend Prep's fourth-quarter lead over Muir to three points in the final two minutes, and Hamane, have shown a flair for knocking down big shots in the playoffs.

Eugenio has become a dangerous three-point threat from anywhere along the arc and Norsworthy is one of the team's best defenders, who can also create offense.

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