LA CAÑADA —To begin this new year’s Prep League campaign, the Flintridge Prep girls’ team drew a tall assignment hosting perennial powerhouse Pasadena Poly, which came in riding a 10-game win streak over the Rebels and a 41-game Prep league winning streak overall, meaning none of the players on the floor had been in high school the last time the Panthers dropped a league contest.
“When I looked at the schedule and saw Poly first, we were just like, ‘Well we’ve got to go through them at some point,’” second-year Rebels Coach Kevin Kiyomura said.
However, the Rebels were off to a hot start and the Panthers’ two league victories this season had both come in single and double overtime.
It was to be overtime again Friday evening, after Poly’s Kiki Yang drained a three-pointer in the final two seconds of regulation to send the game into an extra frame. Flintridge Prep then seized the opportunity to end the Panthers’ Prep League run and dominated the rest of the way to win 68-59 for its first victory over Poly since February of 2008.
“I mean, six-time league champion, undefeated [the last three years], I mean elated,” Kiyomura said of his squad’s reaction about the win. “We had a game plan and we stuck to it. The girls fought for each other. That is what you want: team, team, team.”
Flintridge Prep (8-2, 1-0) saw Yang drain another three-pointer to open overtime, but her long-distance effort was immediately matched by Rebel senior Maya Okamoto.
“I think we just worked really hard and we calmed the nerves and played really loose in the beginning and at the end,” Okamoto said. “It was really good.”
The Rebels then outscored the visiting Panthers, 11-2, the rest of the way, led by the all-around play of Tala Ismail, who had seven points, two blocks and an assist in the extra period to lead the way.
“Between Tala and I we have talked about always being relentless and not being denied. ‘This is your time and you’ve got to go get it,’ and she did it,” Kiyomura said.
The sophomore finished with 16 points and was a catalyst on both sides of the floor throughout, despite playing most of the fourth quarter and overtime with four fouls.
“It’s tough because I love to anticipate passes,” Ismail said of playing with the four fouls. “It was quite a struggle for me, but I just listened to my coaches and helped out when I could.”
The Rebels were led in scoring by Lacy Coan’s 20 points, including 12 after halftime. The sophomore scored six straight in the third quarter to turn a four-point deficit into a two-point advantage. Sophomore Natalie Rozman and Okamoto joined Coan and Ismail in double digits with 12 and 11 points respectively.
Poly (9-6, 0-1) had trailed by five with 11 seconds left in regulation before Yang, who had a game-high 27 points, scored five straight points. The first two came from the charity stripe after a Rebel fouled her in the backcourt, and the next three came on a long-distance shot with two seconds to go following a Panthers steal along the sideline by Emma Fuller-Monk.
“Since [Yang] shot that last three-pointer we knew we had to come back in overtime and show them exactly what we’re made of,” Ismail said. “Those last seconds of the fourth quarter wasn’t us.”
Poly seniors Kaitlyn Olah, Alana Jackson and Natalie Edwards, who before Friday’s loss had been 38-0 in Prep play, chipped in with 11, 10, and nine points respectively.
“If they are six-time reigning champions, you knew they aren’t going to go lay down,” Kiyomura said of the comeback at the end of the fourth quarter. “You knew that was going to happen. Maybe this win will go far for us.”
Flintridge Prep came out of the gates flying, leading, 18-7, after the first quarter. Poly led, 4-2, early before the Rebels went on a 13-0 run led by Ismail. The sophomore got it started by dishing out one of her three first-quarter assists to Coan, then making one of her team’s six first-quarter steals, followed by an assist to Okamoto, before making a scoop shot. Rozman then connected on a three followed by baskets on the fast break by Okamoto and Coen to finish the run and stake themselves to a 15-4 advantage.
“We knew what we were in for and just wanted to come out with intensity,” Ismail said.
After scoring just one field goal in the first quarter, the Panthers hit eight in the second quarter to outscore the home team, 22-9, in the period. This included a 13-0 run to open the quarter, after which Flintridge Prep trailed, 29-27.
The Rebels will have one more meeting with Poly when they go on the road to face them. The last time Flintridge Prep swept the season series with Poly was 2007-08, which was also the last time the Rebels were undefeated Prep League champions.