After opening-round losses in each of the past two postseasons, things have turned around quite nicely for the Flintridge Prep girls' basketball team.
The Rebels found themselves starting over after bringing in co-coaches Kevin Kiyomura and Jayme Kiyomura-Chan to replace Todd Frost. Bolstered by the return of several key starters, the Rebels enjoyed a successful regular season that has carried over to the CIF Southern Section Division V-AA playoffs.
Flintridge Prep finds itself on the doorstep of advancing to the championship game, though it will likely face its toughest test.
Fourth-seeded Flintridge Prep (19-7) will meet top-seeded Sierra Canyon (20-9) in a semifinal road contest at 7 p.m. Saturday. The winner will meet second-seeded Providence or 11th-seeded Village Christian in the title game.
“It’s been an incredible ride throughout the whole season,” said Kiyomura, whose team recorded a 44-41 quarterfinal home win against fifth-seeded Desert on Wednesday. “We are all kind of floating and we don’t want our feet to hit the ground.
“We are excited for all of the players, especially the seniors. We’ve won games so many different ways. We want to try to keep it going.”
Flintridge Prep, which finished second in the Prep League, will make it first semifinal appearance since 2008. The Rebels got 11 points from Maya Okamoto and 13 rebounds from Kinsey Thompson to dispatch Desert.
The Trailblazers, who took second in the Alpha League, earned a 62-19 quarterfinal home win against ninth-seeded Aquinas. Sierra Canyon, which previously competed in Division IV-AA, received 17 points from Kennedy Burke and 13 from Cheyanne Wallace against Aquinas.
Kiyomura said the Trailblazers, who are averaging 78.6 points per game in the postseason, have multiple offensive options.
“They are a complete and athletic team,” said Kiyomura, whose team limited Desert to 15 second-half points. “They have some taller players and they have a lot of speed and they are very polished.”
Okamoto, a junior guard, said the Rebels have banded together throughout the playoffs.
“It’s good to see everybody come together and be rewarded,” Okamoto said. “It wasn’t fun losing in the first round the last couple of [seasons].”
Thompson, a senior center, said the Rebels have gained a wealth of momentum throughout the playoffs.
“It’s my third year on the team and it’s been the most fun,” said Thompson, who had eight points and three blocks against Desert. “It means everything.
“We want to try to give it our best [against Sierra Canyon].”