LA CAÑADA —There were several caveats to take into account as the Flintridge Prep boys’ basketball team ventured into this year’s postseason.
Just like last year, when the postseason run extended to the CIF Southern Section Division VAA semifinals followed by an invitation to the state tournament, the Rebels came in champions of the Prep League. But this season, the Rebels had bumped up a division to IVA and were sure to face tougher competition.
Their first-round opponent was Sherman Oaks Notre Dame, which arrived as an at-large entry that finished last in its league. However, that league was the tough Mission League and the Knights also came in seeded 10th in the Division IVAA bracket.
On Wednesday night, the Knights proved to be too tough for Flintridge Prep, as they dominated inside en route to a convincing 74-49 victory to end the Rebels’ season.
“Four-AA is no joke,” Flintridge Prep Coach Garrett Ohara said. “We knew we’d have to play a tough team in the first round, second round. Anyway, it would have been nice to come away with one win, but Notre Dame is very good [despite] their record. They’re obviously in one of the toughest leagues around.”
The Flintridge Prep (11-14) first-round loss also brought a close to Robert Cartwright’s career as a Rebel, in a game where the Notre Dame defense was designed to throw everything and everyone it had at the star point guard in order to slow him down.
“[Cartwright] is a great player. There is a reason he is going to Stanford,” Notre Dame Coach Vince Oliver said. “He has a great mind for the game and he is a good competitor. We just wanted to make it as tough for him as possible.”
Cartwright led all Rebels scorers with 19 points in his final game for Flintridge Prep. Throughout the contest he saw double teams and a lane with few avenues to the basket.
“They were a good defensive team. They threw a lot of guys at me,” Cartwright said. “The lane was clogged a lot of the time. ... So, we were outplayed today by a better team, but I thought we fought hard.”
The tight defense by Notre Dame (11-17) meant numerous trips to the line for Cartwright, who recorded 11 of his 19 from the charity stripe, which included 10 of his 12 points in the second quarter, after which the home team trailed, 57-38.
Flintridge Prep got all 49 of its points from its starters. Joining Cartwright in double figures was Andrew Tsangeos, who had 11. The sophomore had a field goal in the first quarter, after which the Rebels trailed, 18-6, and then nine more points in the second half.
“[Notre Dame] is not the kind of team you can afford to fall [behind against] and hope to turn it around with a 12, 15, 20-point deficit,” Ohara said.
Senior guard Kyle Hamane, also in his last game as a Rebel, had 10 points, including three from long range in the second half. Senior Stefan Smith had five and sophomore Dante Fregoso had four.
The Knights had 10 players score, led by a game-high 20 points from Luca Ferrari. Forward tandem Chibueze Jacobs and Elijah Ellen, who both had their way inside and on the offensive glass, chipped in 10 and 12 points, respectively.
“They presented some difficulties matching up in terms of their size,” Ohara said.
The fans at Flintridge Prep saw Cartwright and the rest of the seniors leave the court with 1:30 left in the game, trailing by 22 points. The Stanford-bound guard raised one hand to the stands before he walked off the court.
“I did the best I could my entire career and today,” Cartwright said. “Today it wasn’t enough, but I’m happy with what I’ve done here and hopefully the future of Flintridge Prep is bright.”