LA CAÑADA — Mission Prep dared Tala Ismail to shoot by giving her space on the perimeter and she took advantage with clutch outside shots.
Mission Prep then tried a different strategy, sending two defenders toward the sophomore on the Flintridge Prep girls’ basketball team. That didn’t work either, as Ismail found open teammates for easy points.
Mission Prep then played tight defense on her and Ismail still dominated with layups on aggressive drives to the basket.
Ismail confounded Mission Prep in the CIF Southern Section Division 4-A playoffs.
The sophomore scored 19 of her team’s 27 second-half points, totaling a game-high 21 points in all to lead the Rebels to a 50-44 home victory.
“It’s a gutsy performance,” said Flintridge Prep co-Coach Kevin Kiyomura, whose team, which won a share of the Prep League title, will next play a second-round road game against ninth-seeded Banning or Bassett on Saturday. “Tala has a back injury and she’s battling an illness. But she’s working through it. She has showed heart all year.
“She let the game come to her. She was seeing opportunities and she was being patient. She has grown up a lot since last year. She was seizing opportunities tonight.”
Ismail helped the Rebels (18-4) seize control of a tight and fast-paced game that featured 107 field goal attempts and 44 turnovers.
“It was physical,” Kiyomura said. “It was playoff basketball.”
Flintridge Prep had a 23-19 lead at the half that it increased to seven two minutes into the third quarter after a basket and a free throw from Ismail.
Mission Prep fought back, though.
Mission Prep (15-10), which scored just four points in the second quarter, began hitting its shots in the third quarter, as it hit four three-pointers and trailed by just three entering the fourth.
While Mission Prep sank baskets in the third quarter, it still could not stop Ismail, who made all four of her team’s baskets in the frame.
“We lost five seniors from last year’s team,” Ismail said. “I knew I needed to step up this year.”
Ismail’s dominance continued in the fourth, even though Mission Prep tried multiple strategies to slow her down.
She scored 10 points in the final quarter, with her basket with 2:45 remaining giving the Rebels a 45-44 lead, marking the sixth and final lead change of the quarter.
Flintridge Prep’s Taylor Yoshida stole the ball on Mission Prep’s ensuing possession and had an uncontested layup that gave the Rebels a 47-44 lead. Yoshida’s basket was the only second-half basket from a Rebel other than Ismail. It was also her only points of the game.
Lacy Coan added 14 points, including 13 in the opening half, for the Rebels, with Renae Tamura adding six points and Maya Okamoto scoring five.
“We both wanted it,” Ismail said. “In the end, it showed who wanted it more.”