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Rebels take home title

Smith, Norsworthy key second-half comeback that ends with Flintridge Prep winning first-ever CIF championship.

March 05, 2011|By Gabriel Rizk
(Cheryl A. Guerrero )

SANTA ANA — After sailing through the first four rounds of the CIF Southern Section Division 5-AA playoffs, the Flintridge Prep boys’ basketball team finally found an opponent it couldn’t breeze by in Muir.

And, after looking lost in a tough start to Saturday’s title game at Mater Dei High, the Rebels dug deep and also found themselves in time to make a game-changing third-quarter run and staunch fourth-quarter stand to beat the Mustangs, 47-44, and claim the first CIF championship in program chronicle.

“We just made history,” said Prep senior center Kenyatta Smith, whose 15 points, 17 rebounds and six blocks led the Rebels. “I still can’t believe it, but I’m so happy right now, I’m so proud of every one of those guys.

“We worked so hard to be here and we finally made it. This is it.”

With an average margin of victory of nearly 28 points over its playoff run, Prep certainly wasn’t accustomed to the endgame situation it faced on Saturday. But nevertheless, the Rebels were prepared to protect a slim three-point lead for a tense two-minute span, ending with a missed three-point attempt by Muir’s Justin Knowles with 2.4 seconds left that would have tied the game.

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“They got too good a look,” said Prep freshman point guard Robert Cartwright, who scored seven points, including the Rebels’ final two of the game, “but, right now, the feeling’s great.

“It looked like it was off, but I was like, ‘Please, please, please, don’t go in.’”

The fourth quarter, which began with top-seeded Prep clinging to a two-point lead, featured myriad lead changes and neither team ever led by more than four points.

Third-seeded Muir (18-11) would lead for the last time, 44-42, with 3:40 left before Smith tied the game with a second-chance bucket over three defenders after tracking down a long offensive rebound on the baseline at the 3:15 mark.

Senior forward Jared Norsworthy, who finished with 14 points and nine rebounds, put the Rebels ahead, 45-44, with a free throw at the 2:40 mark and Muir’s Dion Nelson missed a three-point attempt at the other end.

Smith rebounded the miss, heaved a long outlet pass to a streaking Cartwright for a layup and a 47-44 lead with 2:00 left.

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