SANTA CLARITA — Faced with a difficult challenge in the first round of the Division V CIF State Basketball Championships on Wednesday, the Flintridge Prep boys’ team faced the task head on.
Taking on No. 4 Village Christian, the defending state champion, the Rebels showed no signs of intimidation, taking it to the Crusaders in the opening quarter.
Flintridge Prep opened the game with a shooting barrage from the outside, converting seven three-pointers in the first quarter and jumping out to a surprising 10-point lead.
However, shooting woes plagued the Rebels the rest of the game, opening the door for Village Christian. The Crusaders took full advantage and walked off the floor with a 60-51 victory at The Master’s College.
“The way we came out at the start of the game just shows the character of the guys on our team,” said Flintridge Prep Coach Garrett Ohara, whose team ends the season with a 22-7 record. “It was really nice to see how they responded against a very good team. Hey, they are the defending state champs and we were right there with them.”
Outside of the first quarter, the Rebels didn’t shoot well against the Crusaders (27-4). Still, Flintridge Prep was able to stay with its high-octane opponent until the final two minutes of the game.
Late in the fourth quarter, the Rebels were still involved in a one-possession contest. With 2:11 remaining, Robert Cartwright made good on a driving layup to get Flintridge Prep to within three of the lead, 52-49.
“I thought we showed a lot by not giving up and coming back in that fourth quarter,” Ohara said.
Cartwright finished with a team-high 19 points. Teammate Jedrick Eugenio added 12 on four three-pointers.
After the Rebels whittled the Village Christian lead down to three late, they just couldn’t eat into the advantage any further. Crusaders’ Bryan Alberts answered Cartwright’s bucket with a basket of his own and after a missed shot by Prep, the lead was increased to 57-49 with under a minute remaining after a free throw and basket by the Crusaders.
The Rebels had trouble containing Alberts, who finished with a game-high 25 points.
Although Alberts turned out to be the difference down the stretch, it was Eugenio who sparked the Rebels in the early going. The senior came out with a hot hand, draining four three-pointers in the first quarter. Andrew Tsangeos added two three-pointers in the stanza and Tyler Weakland had one.
All that led to a 30-20 lead by Flintridge Prep with seven seconds remaining in the opening quarter. The Crusaders added a late basket, but the Rebels still went into the second quarter up by eight.
But things quickly went south for the Rebels in the second. The team missed all 10 of its shots from the floor and scored only six points—all by free throws. Flintridge Prep was outscored in the quarter, 12-6.
But amazingly, despite the shooting struggles, the Rebels went into the half with a two-point lead, 36-34.
“I told the guys as bad as we shot in that second quarter, we are still in this,” Ohara said.
The Rebels were outscored, 11-6, in the third quarter, as Village Christian went into the final stanza leading, 45-42. The Rebels were just three of 10 from the floor in the third.