PASADENA — The final score won't accurately reflect how close the Flintridge Prep and La Salle boys' basketball game was Wednesday.
A huge fourth quarter from the Lancers turned a back-and-fourth game into a one-sided win, as they turned a two-point edge heading into the fourth quarter into a 73-60 home victory over the Rebels.
“Our defense certainly broke down,” said Flintridge Prep Coach Garrett Ohara, explaining the fourth-quarter collapse. “We had too many turnovers that gave them too many open shots. They had a couple of threes in that period and some wide-open looks got to some of their better shooters.”
There wasn't much between both teams in the first three quarters. The lead changed hands 17 times and there were five ties in the first 24 minutes of the contest. Neither team enjoyed a lead greater than five points until the fourth quarter.
“We just took care of the ball better and took good shots, sometimes we struggle with that,” La Salle Coach Steve Goldstein said of his team's fourth-quarter performance. “We rebounded today better than we have all year and we hit free throws down the stretch.
“I thought we played our best fourth quarter and best game of the year. They're a good team so I am pretty happy with our performance today.”
La Salle set the stage for its big fourth quarter late in the third after a three-pointer from Prep's Kory Hamane put the Rebels up, 47-45, with just over a minute remaining. The Lancers closed the quarter out with a 4-0 run to take a 49-47 lead into the final quarter, thanks to a buzzer-beating corner jumper from Steffen Ghantous.
Ghantous picked back up where he left off and hit a three to open the fourth, increasing the lead to 52-47. Prep's Robert Cartwright (12 points) answered with a three of his own to cut the lead to two points.
Ghantous nailed another from behind the arc two possessions later to give his team the largest lead of the game to that point (56-50) with 6:07 remaining. The home crowd was silenced on Prep's next trip up the floor as Hamane hit another three. The Lancers brought their fans back to their feet with an ensuing 9-2 run to go up 65-55 with 2:58 left.
The run was sparked by back-to-back blocks from La Salle's Jeff Briegel and Jordan Hill. Briegel's block led to a layup from the Lancers' Israel Lacy and Hill took his block all the way down the floor for a two-handed dunk. Two plays later, Lacy hit a dagger three to put his team up 10 (65-55) in the final three minutes.
“It was a very close game in the beginning, but we started clicking on defense and got to run our offense and did a very good job at that,” Hill said. “We were really clicking tonight and I think that's what helped us come out and win. We played with some fire.”
Hill and Briegel led the Lancers in the first three quarters. Hill had a double-double by the end of the first half (10 points, 11 rebounds) and finished with a team-high 20 points, 14 rebounds and four blocks. Briegel had 18 points and nine rebounds in the game.
“Jordan rebounded pretty well and he settled down on offense today and played within himself more,” Goldstein said. “Jeff's been getting better and better and he's shown a real nice touch around the basket. It's a good one-two punch on offense.”
Lacy and Ghantous stepped up in the crunch for La Salle. Lacy scored 11 of his 15 points in the fourth quarter and eight of Ghantous' 12 points came in the second half.
“It's great when you have four or five people on the court contributing on offense and defense, that's when your team is really hard to beat,” Hill said.
The fourth quarter was a stark contrast between the first three. All the early leads were short-lived, as the advantage changed hands seven times in the first quarter.
The Rebels went into the second holding to a 16-15 edge, as Hamane hit a three-pointer before the buzzer. He was on fire to start the game, scoring 15 points and three threes in the first half. He finished with a game-high 26 points and six three-pointers.
“We weren't shooting the ball too well outside of Kory,” Ohara said. “Some of our inside guys had a tough time tonight. ...When you live by the jump shot you're not getting pressure other ways.”
Hamane hit a jumper to start the second, pushing Prep's lead to 18-15, but saw it disappear as the Lancers took a 21-20 lead with a 6-2 run. Both squads traded buckets the rest of the half and La Salle entered halftime with a 32-29 lead after two straight buckets from Lacy to close the first half.