Flintridge Prep girls' basketball out muscles Desert Christian

The Flintridge Prep’s girls’ basketball team might very well be living up to its No. 4 seed and, in the process, is carrying on its phenomenal turnaround season.

The Rebels passed one of their stiffest tests to date on Saturday in the second round of the CIF Southern Section Division V-AA playoffs, winning a physical battle against host Desert Christian, 56-45.

“Big win for us,” said first-year co-coach Kevin Kiyomura. “It was a physical, physical battle. If I say prizefight, it’s probably not that far from the truth. It’s something that we’re not really used to, but we rose to the occasion.”

And in the process, the Rebels (18-7), who had just seven wins a season ago, have risen to the CIF quarterfinals, where they will play Buckley or Desert on Wednesday.

Maya Okamoto led the way for Prep in the foulfest, converting on 15 of 18 shots from the free-throw line en route to a team-high 22 points.

“It feels great,” said Okamoto of the win. “It feels like we’re being rewarded for all the hard work we put in.”

Tala Ismail and Lacy Coan added nine and eight points, respectively, for the Rebels.

“They did it on both ends of the floor,” Kiyomura said.

Flintridge Prep, which took second in the Prep League, jumped out to a 17-12 lead in the first quarter and held serve against Desert Christian (20-2), taking a 26-22 lead into halftime. The third quarter was defensive and physical, as the Rebels won the period, 8-4.

“We kind of wore them down,” Kiyomura said.

But the fourth was a polar opposite from the third, as the Rebels exploded for 22 points, though they allowed 19. Nonetheless, it was plenty to keep Prep moving forward and exceeding expectations.

“We’re super, super excited,” said Kiyomura of the win. “Originally, our goal was to get past the first round of the playoffs.

“They’re starting to believe this is who they are.”

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