By MIKEY HIRANO CULROSS, Rafu Sports Editor
Published Feb. 28, 2023
ONTARIO – To say there was a wild celebration in the Flintridge Prep locker room would be right on the nose. Literally.
Co-head coach Jayme Kiyomura-Chan emerged from the clubhouse with an apparent bloody nose after catching a flying water bottle to the face, as the girls reveled in winning the CIF Southern Section. Div. 3AA championship on Saturday night.
The injury was a mild one, and did nothing to lessen the excitement the coach was feeling after Prep dominated top-seed Los Osos, 68-52, to capture their second CIF-SS title since 2016.
“Today was about transforming all the hard work we’ve done all season into the belief that we can win the big game,” said co-head coach Kevin Kiyomura. “They believed in themselves and that made the difference.”
Chief among the difference-makers was Flintridge Prep’s star senior guard Ashley Chea, who led with a game-high 24 points.
However, Los Osos had to contend with a balanced attack aside from Chea, who found herself in foul trouble early into the fourth quarter.
“Our freshmen stepped up big time, they were not afraid of the moment,” said assistant coach Krista Arase. “When Ashley has to sit for a while, they were the difference.”
Frosh center Akemi Fu ruled inside the paint, scoring a double-double with 15 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. Fellow first-year starter Maddie Smith had 14 points with a pair of three-pointers and eight rebounds.
“When Ashley had to come to the bench, we had some amazing moments,” Kiyomura-Chan added. “Maddie stepped in and took control out there.”
Smith set the tone early for Flintridge Prep, driving to the basket with authority within minutes of tip-off.
Throughout the game, the Wolves went on scoring runs sparked by effectively keeping the Los Osos offense stymied.
“Defense allows us to get into transition, so we worked on that a lot,” Kiyomura explained. Los Osos was held to just seven points in the second period. “That’s a good team we played tonight, and they deserved the No. 1 seed. We knew it was going to be a game of runs, and we were able to put on a few.”
Junior guard Izzie Chan, who had two steals and two rebounds, said her squad’s strategy worked essentially as well as they had hoped.
“Our game plan worked today. We were prepared coming in, and with the ball, we found who we needed to find,” she said.
Just before the start of the fourth quarter, Kiyomura kept the motivation in overdrive, reminding his team not to get comfortable with the 18-point lead they had at that moment.
“Don’t lose focus,” he warned. “One quarter, one more, let’s go!”
After the win, Chea said this is what her team strived to achieve all season.
“Our first goal was to win our league. We went 12-0 and from there on out, our goal was for this moment. We are on top of the world right now,” she said.
After a weekend to bask in the glow of victory, it was back to practice for Flintridge Prep on Monday, to prepare for the CIF State tournament.
The eighth-seeded Wolves will play their first-round Div. II match tonight at home against No. 9 Scripps Ranch.
Photos by MIKEY HIRANO CULROSS/Rafu Shimpo (except where noted)