Hot start carries Knights over Rebels in crosstown hoops rivalry

LA CAÑADA FLINTRIDGE — Each team had seven players, neither squad had its best athletes and both locals were playing their fourth game in two days.

For the St. Francis High and Flintridge Prep boys' basketball teams, Saturday's matchup in the Flintridge Prep Tournament was not about winning and losing. It was simply about giving their players an opportunity to earn playing time when the season begins in the winter.

St. Francis had enough strength and depth to prevail, as it scored the game's first 14 points en route to winning, 57-43, at Flintridge Prep.

"It's a long summer," St. Francis Coach Ray O'Brien said. "Some guys were missing because of football, travel ball and another was at a leadership conference. We were missing five of our top seven guys, but our guys did a good job."

They were superb in the opening five minutes.

St. Francis raced to a 14-0 lead — with sophomore Markar Agakanian scoring six of those points — before the Rebels finally scored on a Chadd Cosse driving layup with 10:45 remaining in the first half.

"We have lost some games when we weren't ready to play in the beginning," O'Brien said. "The first five minutes set the tone."

The opening minutes also allowed Agakanian to shine. He continued to scorch the Rebels after the early spurt, finishing with 14 points in the first half. He had a team-high 18.

"Markar did a good job," O'Brien said. "He's an athletic kid. He makes his share of mistakes, but he makes things happen."

Added Agakanian: "With guys gone, some players need to step up. I took that role [Saturday]."

Flintridge Prep Coach Garrett Ohara needed more firepower beside Cosse's game-high 20 points.

But despite St. Francis' 18-point lead in the first half, the Rebels didn't cave. They cut the Golden Knights' lead to seven with 7:30 remaining in the second half, but a bucket by St. Francis' Philip Little, a three-point play from Dylan Crawford and a three-pointer from Jake Beck on consecutive possessions pushed the lead to 15.

Beck finished with 12 points and teammate Israel Gutierrez had nine. Crawford contributed eight.

Scott Tsangeos had 10 points for Flintridge Prep, which was missing a bulk of its starting lineup from a year ago due to other commitments.

"It's hard when you're playing with short numbers," Ohara said. "I don't know if it was fatigue or something. These guys are playing a lead role instead of a supporting cast role that they're used to.

"It's not really about wins and losses. We're trying to get better. It's good to see how they'll perform."

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