LA CAÑADA —Maranatha High clearly held the advantage in size and experience when it took the court with the Flintridge Prep boys’ basketball team Saturday afternoon.
While the Minutemen were busy piecing together a group of talented new faces and transfers under first-year coach Tim Tucker, Rebels Coach Garrett Ohara used the game as a tryout of sorts for the varsity squad.
Only one of five Rebels set to return from last year’s group took the floor — Robert Cartwright — and the new-look Minutemen took advantage. Maranatha cruised to a 62-41 win at Flintridge Prep after essentially putting the game away with a 15-0 run to start the game.
“I like the nucleus of what we have. I think that we have a quality team and by November we’ll be ready to play with Price,” said Tucker, as Price was seeded second in the 2013 CIF Southern Section Division IV-AA playoffs and figures to be a juggernaut again in the Minutemen’s division in 2014. “They’re going to be up there, but we have a chance. … The guys we got in are pretty talented.”
While Cartwright finished with a game-high 31 points and nine rebounds, it was nowhere near to enough. It was winning the battle of the boards that led Maranatha to taking the game, as it held a 46-27 edge inside.
“Robert has been in this whole tournament knowing some of these guys are trying to make varsity, so he’s trying to get them involved,” Ohara said of his point guard. “He’s got to realize these aren’t the same guys he’s been playing with and he’s got to have a good attitude.
“He’s shooting the ball more than normal, but that’s required for our team to have any kind of success. I think he’s realized he’s always got to be more of a scorer than a distributor and he’s shown good leadership with them.”
Maranatha was led by Crescenta Valley High transfer Nick Springer’s 15 points and 13 rebounds, Austin Barbato’s 17 points and six rebounds and Muusa Dama’s 10 points, nine rebounds and three blocks. Dama, a 6-foot-8 transfer from Africa, will be integral to the Minutemen’s offensive and defensive system, as he has the ability to control the paint on both sides.
“Muusa’s getting better, as he gets better we’re going to get better because he allows us to do some things -- man-to-man and zone up,” Tucker said.
Dama scored six of his team’s first 15 points, highlighted by a dunk on the Minutemen’s second possession. Prep and Cartwright refused to go away quietly, as they enjoyed a short 6-0 run with Cartwright scoring four of those points.
“It’s tough because he beats a tough defender and then sees a 6-foot-8 down there,” Ohara said of Cartwright. “It’s great for him to be able to work on those skills to get himself open, despite being in a double-team situation.”
Maranatha responded with a 5-0 spurt and closed the first half on a 12-0 charge after consecutive Cartwright triples. Springer, who had nine points and nine rebounds at the break, controlled the boards against a drastically smaller Rebels front court. He had seven of Maranatha’s final 12 points over the last 4:17 of the first half.
A comeback was out of the question, as Flintridge Prep wouldn’t put consecutive scoring possessions together again until there was 1:39 left in the game. Cartwright started it with a short jumper with two minutes left to pull his team within 61-37 and Miles Johnson added a pair of free throws 21 seconds later. Cartwright capped his and Prep’s scoring with a pair of points from the charity stripe with 1:18 to go.
Outside of Cartwright, Flintridge Prep received contributions from Chris Brummett (six rebounds, two points), Johnson (nine rebounds, four points) and two more points from Evan Monroe.
“We had shots we didn’t make and there are the turnovers, but that’s why we use the summer to get used to varsity basketball and a faster pace,” Ohara said of his overall team play Saturday. “The end result isn’t that important as trying to make progress.”