A season ago, the Flintridge Prep girls’ basketball team went 7-18 and received a surprising at-large bid into the playoffs.
Thus, the turnaround orchestrated by first-year co-coaches Kevin Kiyomura and Jayme Kiyomura-Chan has been rather impressive. Evidence to that came Sunday, when the Rebels, after posting a 16-7 record and a second-place finish in the Prep League, were granted the No. 4 seed in the CIF Southern Section Division 5-AA playoffs.
“I’m very happy,” said Kiyomura, whose team will host California Military in Thursday’s first round at 7 p.m. “Granted, we don’t know a whole lot about California Military, but we’re really excited about getting in [to the playoffs] and getting a legitimate seed.”
La Cañada joins Prep in the legitimate-seed department, having been propelled to No. 3 in Division 3-A after defeating South Pasadena on Thursday for the Rio Hondo League title.
“They had to bump one of us up or down,” said Spartans Coach Tamar Hill, whose team was ranked fifth in the division behind No. 4 South Pasadena before the league finale. “Obviously winning that game was huge for us.”
With CIF having to avoid potentially putting league opponents against each other in the quarterfinal round, the Spartans leapfrogged all the way up to the third seed, with South Pas sitting at No. 5.
La Cañada received a first-round bye and awaits a second-round home matchup against either No. 14 El Monte (15-11), the second-place Mission Valley League squad, or Valle Vista League at-large entrant Northview (4-16), on Saturday at 7 p.m. The Spartans already hold a nonleague win over El Monte.
Hill said the bye is a double-edged sword, as there’s a risk of lost momentum, but also an opportunity for needed rest.
“Hopefully it’ll give us a chance to rest up and we won’t lose any momentum,” Hill said.
Prep (16-7) hosts a California Military team on Thursday that took second in the Warrior League.
The winner advances to Saturday’s second round against either Desert Christian or Hamilton.
Prep is coming off a 1-2 stretch in which it lost twice to league champion Pasadena Poly and narrowly defeated Westridge, the 11th-ranked squad in 4-A. But Kiyomura believes the stiff competition could well pay dividends.
“Looking back, that was probably the best way to ramp up going into the playoffs,” Kiyomura said. “I do believe the girls are pretty excited about playoffs.”