AZUSA — Missing star guard Robert Cartwright and fighting fatigue and grogginess as well as the Charter Oak High boys’ basketball team, visiting Flintridge Prep came up just short in Saturday morning’s first game of the boys’ basketball 12th annual Azusa Pacific University Shootout.
The Rebels closed within one point and were down a possession with a minute remaining before ultimately falling, 44-40, in nonleague action at the Felix Event Center.
“It’s a quick and difficult turnaround for the guys, especially coming off an emotional league win,” Rebels Coach Garrett Ohara said in reference to Flintridge Prep’s 42-41 victory at Prep League rival Webb on Friday evening. “To come here for a nonleague game the very next morning in a sterile environment without the fan support was also difficult.
“Plus, without Robert, we really had trouble scoring.”
Ohara confirmed the Stanford-bound Cartwright injured his foot at Webb and was ruled out of Saturday’s game, which was scheduled for a 9 a.m. tip-off, as he’s scheduled to take an X-ray soon.
Despite all of the above issues, Flintridge Prep (5-11) closed within, 42-40, with 59 seconds remaining on a four-footer from Stefan Smith off a slashing drive and kick from senior guard Kyle Hamane.
As was expected, Charter Oak (7-9) went to its standout, junior guard Amier Thomas, on its following possession, looking for an answer.
Thomas, who led his team with 17 points and six rebounds, received the ball from teammate Dakota Golden (nine points and seven rebounds) just outside the left elbow and took advantage of a late-arriving double team.
Thomas split through two Rebels defenders en route to connecting on a two-footer with 30.3 seconds remaining, which put the Chargers back up by four.
Attempting to again close within a possession, Flintridge Prep countered with a five-pass possession that ended on a winding, off-balance six-foot attempt from Hamane that just rimmed out. The miss was rebounded with 13.2 seconds left by Charter Oak’s Joe Bonilla, who was fouled less than two seconds later.
“We were a little fatigued because of yesterday’s game and today’s early start and you could see that because we didn’t do a good enough job of communicating and passing,” said Hamane, who led the Rebels with 17 points and three steals. “I thought it would be different because we played the morning game last year at APU and we’ve normally done pretty well.”
Initially, Flintridge Prep caught a break when Bonilla missed the front end of a one-and-one bonus.
Yet, that failed free throw try did not benefit the Rebels, as Chargers senior Jaedyn Bonilla came up with an offensive rebound and was fouled with 10.1 seconds remaining.
This time, Jaedyn Bonilla also missed his first free throw, which led to a frantic Rebels sprint the other way and final three-point try from Stefan Chraghchian that came up short.
The game’s sluggishness may have been most evident in the first quarter, as Charter Oak led, 10-6, in a period in which both teams combined to shoot eight for 22 and spent most of each possession just trying to get into specific offensive and defensive sets.
Flintridge Prep performed better in the second quarter, responding from the four-point deficit with a 10-2 run to take a 16-12 lead at 3:02 after pair of free throws from Hamane.
The advantage was short-lived, however, as Charter Oak bounced back and scored the next five points to go up, 17-16, and eventually take a 21-19 advantage into the half after a layup from Golden with four seconds remaining.
Charter Oak seemed more invigorated by the break as the Chargers scored 11 of the first 13 points in the third in taking a 32-21 lead with 2:44 remaining.
To its credit, Flintridge Prep rallied with a three-pointer from Chraghchian with 2:15 left that kick-started a quarter-closing 10-0 run capped with a jumper from Hamane with 12 seconds left that brought the Rebels to within 32-31.
“It was pretty tough out here, but we still almost won,” said Rebels sophomore forward Miles Johnson. “We got back from our game last night at 11 and we just didn’t have the energy out there.”