LA CRESCENTA — With an 11-point lead and under six minutes to play, all seemed right for the Flintridge Prep boys' basketball team.
The rest of the fourth quarter and two overtimes later, the Rebels were happy to escape with an 86-85 double-overtime win against Antelope Valley in the third-place contest of the Crescenta Valley Falcon Classic.
"Even though it shouldn't have been that close, we're still happy to get the win," said Prep senior center Kenyatta Smith, an all-tournament selection who had a team-high 25 points. "It was very tight at the end, but we pulled it out."
Jedrick Eugenio, who had 13 points, hit the game-winner on a jump shot, though it came with 1:05 still to go in the second overtime. Thereafter, neither team could convert, with Prep missing four free throws in the final minute, while Antelope Valley had one last shot when Lorenzo Goines, who had 23 points, was fouled and went to the line with 0:00.8 remaining and his team trailing, 86-84. Goines missed his first attempt, though, and the Rebels held on.
"Free-throw shooting has been our Achilles' heel all year," said Rebels Coach Garrett O'Hara. "It's important and we had opportunities to close it out and we didn't. Good thing we were able to do some things defensively and they didn't make their [free throws] either."
A Smith layin followed by a Kory Hamane jumper gave the Rebels (4-2) their biggest lead of the game at 68-57 early into the fourth quarter. But rather than serve as the beginning of the end for the Lopes (2-2), Hamane's bucket served as the precursor to a 15-2 Antelope Valley run that gave the Lopes a 72-70 lead with 1:53 remaining in the fourth period.
Antelope Valley had not led since late in the first quarter, but still came back time after time when the Rebels flirted with blowing the game out.
"They just kept coming back," Smith said. "We sort of dropped our intensity."
And dropped the ball when it came to the charity stripe, as the Rebels hit just 16 of 27 from the foul line.
Nevertheless, a three-pointer from freshman guard Robert Cartwright with 49 seconds to go in the fourth frame put the Rebels up again at 74-72. Cartwright hit seven threes on the night and had 23 points.
"He played very well for us all tournament," Prep Coach Garrett O'Hara said of his freshman. "He's talented."
But as had plagued the Rebels all game, they couldn't stop Travion Tucker, who had a game-high 29 points. Tucker tied the game with 33 seconds left at 74-74.
In the first overtime, Prep took a 76-74 lead on a Jordan Whaley layup, but the Lopes came back to lead 78-76 before a Smith jumper with 38 seconds left tied it once more.
Smith came up huge on the defensive end with a block on Tucker and Prep had a golden opportunity to go ahead when Hamane recovered the block and spotted a wide-open Cartwright on a fast break. Hamane's pass went awry, though, and an AV shot missed at the buzzer to send the game to double-overtime.
Prep looked to seize control at the onset, building an 84-78 lead, but once again the Lopes came back to tie it before Eugenio's game-winner.
The first quarter was a foreshadowing of the game's back-and-forth offensive showcase, as the Rebels emerged with a slight 23-18 lead after a six-point run ended the stanza. It was 41-39 at the half after the Rebels built a nine-point lead at one point, only to see the Lopes come back on the strength of five three-pointers in the quarter.
In the third, the Rebels began to pull away, ending the quarter with a 59-52 lead that swelled in the early stages of the fourth quarter before the Lopes managed their biggest comeback.
"We were like, what just happened," Smith said of his team's mindset after giving up the lead in the fourth, "we can't go out like this, we have to come back."
Whether the Rebels escaped, survived, or what have you, O'Hara believes his team should be better off for having experienced Friday's wild and wooly game.
"Credit our guys to come back and have the poise to pull it out," he said. "It's good to be in situations like this where you can look back on. … It builds confidence. That's why we play in tough tournaments."