LA CAÑADA FLINTRIDGE — Much like the first few swings of a baseball bat after batting weights are shed in the on-deck circle, the Flintridge Prep boys' basketball team's blowout win in the opening round of the CIF Southern California Division V Championships on Tuesday against overmatched Tranquility seemed practically effortless following Saturday's slugfest with Muir for the Southern Section Division 5-AA championship.
Contrary to that game, one of the toughest of the year for Prep, in which it won by just three points, it only took two minutes and 15 seconds for the Rebels to set the tone for Tuesday's 98-32 landslide. But a runaway first quarter was only the beginning of a tireless show of blocked shots, steals, fast breaks and slam dunks that the Rebels provided for their home fans in a game that felt more like a first-round bye than a state tournament opener.
"It was an interesting change in tempo," Prep senior center Kenyatta Smith, who had 18 points, 11 rebounds and five blocks, said of transitioning from a brawl to a blowout in a matter of days. "Coming into this game, Coach [Garret Ohara] gave us a disclaimer, he said, 'Honestly, we've played some tough teams before and we've played some not-so-good teams, and this is a not-so-good team.'
"But we went out there and tried to execute and we did have some fun along the way."
Making his first five shots from the field, Smith paced a Rebels' effort that included 16 points, six assists and five steals from junior guard Kory Hamane and 15 points and five assists from freshman guard Robert Cartwright.
From the opening minute, the Tigers, who finished runner-up in Central Section Division V, had no answer for Smith, who scored the game's first four points and blocked Tranquility's first two shot attempts. A Cartwright three-pointer, a long outlet pass from Smith to Jedrick Eugenio for a layup and then a Eugenio steal that led to a Cartwright breakaway put Prep up, 11-0, at the 5:45 mark.
A Tranquility timeout did little to stop the onslaught, as Prep, the No. 2 seed in the Southern California Bracket, pushed the lead to 19-0 by the midway point of the opening quarter. The run was completed by a Smith dunk in the deep post on a feed from Cartwright, but it was an earlier jam by Smith that really energized the building.
After grabbing a long offensive rebound, Smith put the ball on the floor and weaved his way through traffic all the way to the basket for a resounding running dunk.
The Rebels followed their 32-point first quarter with 34 points in the second quarter, which saw Hamane go on a tear just before halftime.
With just over 2:30 left in the half, Hamane converted a steal into a breakaway layup, then stole the ball again and dished to Cartwright on the break before getting a fortuitous high bounce on a three-pointer to put Prep up, 66-19.
About the only thing in doubt in the second half was whether the Rebels would break the 100-point barrier, which still seemed quite possible even with a running fourth-quarter clock and every Prep starter parked on the bench. Under some intense urging from the home fans, the Rebels scrambled to get a final play off and beat the clock with a long three that hit the back rim.
"Normally, we don't take a shot on that possession, but I wasn't going to take a timeout either," Ohara said. "I did think about the sportsmanship aspect, but I think we conducted ourselves well."
Prep will next meet either Redlands Adventist or St. Bernard in the second round at 7 p.m. Thursday at Prep.
"We're prepared for that," Smith said of moving on to tougher challenges. "We can't let this game affect our momentum at all. We know we've got to keep going, we know next game is going to be lot faster. We're ready for it."