It looked like a match of the five-game variety, however, as all three games were tightly contested with La Salle picking up the crucial points en route to the 25-17, 25-23, 26-24 title-clinching victory.
“They were our biggest competition of the tournament,” said Lancers Coach Tiare Tuitama, whose squad improved to 5-1 on the season. “They were without one of their top guys and we were too. It might have gone five [if Ismail had played].”
The Lancers sustained momentum and dictated the pace of the match, mainly because of their emphatic kills at key moments of each game. Playing a 6-2 offense, setters Jake Bragg and Kelby Lanzarotta gave Kevin Walsh, Will Pyburn and Ben Dalgarn balls that left no chance for a dig on the other side.
“They got some big hits and we knew they were going to,” Rebels Coach Sean Beattie said. “The key is to stay calm and try to not get frazzled, and we didn’t.
“Not having Kareem really hurt us. His blocking and offensively — that’s a lot of points we’re missing. As a team, we stepped up and we were just one or two points short.”
Beattie also said pink eye cases were frequent at Flintridge Prep recently, and Ismail wanted to play but the decision was made to have him stay home.
Without Ismail, the Rebels scored the opening point of the match, but would not lead again in the first game, as the Lancers used an 8-2 run midway through to extend a 13-11 lead to 21-13. La Salle scored 12 of the final 18 points of the game.
Flintridge Prep made the necessary adjustments and opened the second game scoring seven of the first 10 points. The Rebels held a 19-13 lead before succumbing to a 13-4 run by the Lancers that gave them their first lead at 24-23 and then the game-winning point.
The third game saw six tie scores, including at 23 and 24. The see-saw battle in the third also had five lead changes. The two latest ones came in the game’s final four points. The teams were knotted at 23 before the Rebels won the next point, but couldn’t close it out and instead gave up three consecutive points to lose the game and the match.
“As a team, we stepped up and were one or two points short,” Beattie said. “We had opportunities to close in the second and third but we didn’t. The team competed and played hard.”
The Rebels will take on Temple City in a nonleague match on Tuesday before the San Gabriel Tourney next weekend.
The Lancers will look to continue the solid start to the season. For now, they will enjoy the trophies.
“Our passing was huge,” Tuitama said. “We have hitters, but if we don’t get them the ball then it doesn’t really matter.”