PASADENA — Earlier this season, Flintridge Prep and Pasadena Poly matched up in girls’ basketball and the Rebels, in their league opener, brought to an end the visiting Panthers’ 41-game Prep League winning streak — but not until the hosts absorbed a last-second three pointer by Poly that forced overtime before Flintridge Prep secured the win.
It was round two Tuesday evening, this time on the Panthers’ home floor and the sequel almost produced the same drama, but with the roles reversed. It was Flintridge Prep that mounted the fourth-quarter comeback, but when it came time at the end for the last-second three-pointer to force overtime, the Rebels just could not get one to go and the Panthers won 55-52 to carve themselves some space atop the league leader board.
“It’s a learning experience that we didn’t necessarily want to learn this way or learn at this point. It’s something we’re going to build on and push forward,” Rebel co-Coach Kevin Kiyomura said. “Every possession counts.”
Flintridge Prep (11-3, 4-1 in league) trailed by nine with 2:02 remaining in the contest. Rebel Lacy Coan sank a baseline jumper. After a turnover by Poly (13-6, 6-1), Tala Ismail scored four straight for the visitors by way of an offensive rebound and putback followed by a steal and basket at the other end to trim the margin to three points with 44 seconds to go.
“If we’re going to go down, let’s go down swinging,” Kiyomura said of his message to his team in the fourth. “They were all up for it and obviously it’s that that got us back into the game.”
The Panthers were then called for traveling, but the subsequent three from the Rebels was off line. However, a jump ball immediately gave it back with 25 seconds to go, but Flintridge Prep was unable to inbound the ball and was called for a five-second violation. The Panthers then missed the front end of a one-and-one. The Rebels had one more chance on their side of the court with 5.8 seconds to go, but were called for traveling after receiving the inbound pass and there would be no more chances.
“When you draw up any kind of play at the end of the game like that, you just hope they can execute it,” Kiyomura said. “Actually they did execute it exactly the way we wanted, [but] it didn’t work out the way we wanted. But I was proud of them for doing that; no game comes down to one possession. ... I hope they don’t take that as that is what lost the game.”
Despite the loss, Flintridge Prep remains in control of its own road to at least a share of the Prep League title.
“We just have to win out, which was the original plan,” Okamoto said. “So, we've just got to stick to the game plan.”
The Achilles heel for the Rebels, who came in ranked No. 9 in Division IV-A, was the strong inside play of Poly front court player Kaitlyn Olah. The senior used her size to score a game-high 21 points while also being a dominant rebounder on both ends, finishing with 14 rebounds split down the middle between offensive and defensive.
“I think [Poly] did a better job spreading us out today,” said Kiyomura of why Olah, who had 11 in the first matchup, scored the volume she did. “In the first game they were kind of bottled up, which made us able to do double teams on her.”
In the third quarter, which saw a four-point Rebels lead morph into a three-point halftime deficit, Olah outscored Flintridge Prep on her own, 9-8.
Flintridge Prep spread the wealth around on offense, with eight Rebels scoring at least one bucket. Maya Okamoto led the way with 10 points, tying Coan for team honors. Coan, a junior, had six of her 10 in the first quarter, after which the Rebels led, 11-7. Freshman Taylor Yoshida came off the bench to put in nine points, including a game-high six in the fourth-quarter as part of the comeback that saw the Rebels begin the frame trailing by 10. Ismail finished with eight points.
In the first half, the Rebels did an excellent job of containing Panthers sharpshooter Kiki Yang, who put up 27 points in the first meeting, as the junior always had a defender glued to her and repeatedly drew double teams. But after just two first-half points, Yang scored nine in the second half to finish with 11. Additionally, her ball-handling skills and ability to break up long outlet passes by the Rebels as they looked to push the ball went a long way in holding off the Flintridge Prep comeback.
“[Flintridge Prep] is very well coached,” said Poly Coach Kim Weber Hall, whose squad is ranked No. 4 in Division VAA. “It feels so good to win against such a good team.”