PASADENA — Once up by as many as 16 points, the Flintridge Prep girls’ basketball team found itself in a fight late at Mayfield Senior School.
Fortunately for the visiting Rebels, they played well enough on defense and hit their free throws to repel the Cubs for a 55-47 Prep League victory Thursday evening.
“For us, it starts with defense and creating pressure,” Rebels co-Coach Kevin Kiyomura said. “There are going to be nights, especially on the road, where our shots don’t fall. So, we have to play defense to keep ourselves in the game and to win.”
With the victory, the Rebels (14-4, 7-2 in league) kept themselves in league-title contention with league-leading Pasadena Poly (15-6, 8-1).
Yet, Poly likely wasn’t on the minds of the members of the Flintridge Prep team when Mayfield sophomore guard Megan Villar slashed through the paint and converted a layup with 2:01 remaining to pull the Cubs (8-15, 2-8) to within 49-44, which marked the closest the home team had been since late in the second quarter.
With a potential upset looming, the Rebels went back to their bread and butter — free throw shooting and defense.
First, Rebels guard Taylor Yoshida was body-checked and fouled by Villar (18 points) at 1:43, which sent the freshman to the line for a one-plus-one bonus.
Yoshida didn’t flinch in knocking down two free throws, which was followed by a steal from fellow freshman guard Renae Tamura (nine points) on the Cubs’ subsequent possession.
While Tamura missed her shot attempt after the steal, teammate Tala Ismail, who led all players with 20 points, six rebounds, four steals and two blocks, scooped up an offensive board and putback with 1:18 left that gave Flintridge Prep a 53-44 lead.
Despite being down nine, Mayfield made one last surge, first grabbing three points when senior forward Remy Traglio (11 points and 15 rebounds) scored on a continuation eight-footer while being fouled. Traglio sank a free throw with 26.7 seconds left to bring the Cubs within 53-47.
Mayfield then pressured on Flintridge Prep’s inbounds and came up with a steal from Traglio.
Yet, Traglio missed a layup try that was rebounded by Ismail with 18.3 seconds remaining, which virtually sealed the game.
“We went into the game knowing we could do it if we tried hard and focused on positive energy,” said Rebels junior Lacy Coan, who tallied 14 points, five rebounds and four steals. “Mayfield came back because they were playing aggressive defense and boxed us out like what we were doing to them earlier.”
Flintridge Prep jumped out to a 13-5 lead after a three-point play from Tamura (assisted by Yoshida) with 1:52 remaining in the first quarter. The Rebels’ lead was built through defense as Flintridge Prep forced eight of its total 10 turnovers in the quarter, which helped counter the squad’s five-for-19 shooting (26%).
Yet, Mayfield closed the first by scoring five straight points to push to within 13-10 at the break and eventually pulled even with Flintridge Prep at 16 after a five-footer from sophomore center Victoria Gutierrez (eight points) with 2:47 remaining.
From that point, though, the Rebels responded with a game-changing 14-0 run in taking a 30-16 advantage into the half.
“What held us back was our free-throw shooting and our turnovers, especially in the second quarter,” Mayfield Coach Kevin Yamamoto said. “We fought back from being down like 15, so I am proud of my girls.”
Flintridge Prep’s spurt began with a jumper from Ismail and then included a steal and layup from Tamura four seconds later.
The Rebels forced five turnovers in the quarter, three on the drive, in finishing with 25 turnovers caused overall versus 11 committed.
Flintridge Prep eventually took its biggest lead, 39-23, with 5:23 remaining in the third before Mayfield closed to within 44-32 at the end of three.
“This wasn’t a trap game. Every time we play Mayfield we expect a close game,” Kiyomura said. “We beat them by one point twice last year and they play hard. I’m happy we did the right things at the end to win.”