FSHA takes step back

SAN MARINO — Given the opportunity, the Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy girls' basketball team would take a mulligan on its first game of the season.

The Tologs came into the game with a clear size advantage over a smaller San Marino squad, but it didn't show on the scoreboard. Sacred Heart's offense never got going against a quick, relentless San Marino defense Tuesday and, as a result, fell to the Titans, 45-32, in a San Gabriel Valley Classic game at San Marino High.

"We usually score 70 points or 65 points a game," said Tologs senior center Lana Haddad, who finished the game with 14 points, nine rebounds and four blocks. "None of our shots were going in, including our threes. Our all-around team was just bad."

The victory only cemented what San Marino Coach Kenny Fisher believed coming into the season.

"I thought we'd have a good team," said Fisher, a former girls' coach for 17 years at Flintridge Prep, where he led the Rebels to an appearance in the CIF Southern Section Division IV-A championship game in 2007. "This is a new group, the first time they've ever been together, and you just never know how it's going to work, but if tonight is any indication, I think we will be pretty good.

"It's good to beat [Sacred Heart] because they're a good team and won the tournament last year."

Sacred Heart (0-1) was down early, as the Titans took a 13-6 advantage in the first quarter. The Tologs responded — going on an 8-0 run, behind four points from Haddad — to take a 14-13 lead at the end of the opening quarter.

San Marino (2-0) didn't stay down for long, holding the Tologs to just four points in the second quarter. The Titans scored 10 points, six of them coming off Sacred Heart turnovers, in the quarter to retake a 24-18 lead at halftime.

The Titans' junior captain and guard, Leigh Kunitake, led her team to the early lead. She finished the game with 21 points, 16 of them coming in the first half.

"I just shot the ball whenever I was open," said Kunitake, who sank three three-pointers in the first half. "Once I started making more shots, I started getting more confidence."

It only got worse for Sacred Heart, which only managed to score two points in the third quarter. The Titans just kept on rolling with a 19-2 run in the third to take a commanding 43-20 lead heading into the final quarter.

The Tologs' offense made a lot of mistakes that a hounding San Marino squad benefited from. Sacred Heart committed 29 turnovers in the game, 14 of them coming in the third quarter.

"It was definitely defense," said Kunitake, explaining the difference in the game. "We boxed out and worked hard to keep [Haddad] from getting the ball. We put a lot of pressure on the guards to keep the ball out of the post because we were outsized down there."

Sacred Heart was able to take a big bite out of the lead in the final quarter with a 12-2 run, behind six points from Haddad, but still suffered a disappointing loss.

"If someone who knew our team came and watched us today, they wouldn't think it's the same team," Haddad said. "We are a completely different team than what we played today."

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