LA CAÑADA — Back from a 10-game absence while recovering from a left Achilles injury, Robert Cartwright wasn’t sure what kind of performance he might have.

The Stanford University-bound Cartwright returned in time Friday night for the Rebels against archrival Pasadena Poly in a Prep League opener for both teams in front of a noisy packed house at Flintridge Prep.

It took some time for Cartwright to heat up before sounding off with a top-notch performance in the fourth quarter.

Cartwright scored 11 of his game-high 24 points in the fourth quarter to lead Flintridge Prep to a 41-39 victory.

“I’m exhausted right now, but winning this game makes things feel a lot better,” said Cartwright, the reigning league most valuable player who was also chosen Tuesday as a McDonald's All-American nominee. “We had to come back against a very good team in the last quarter and we got some lucky breaks.

“I had to go out there and just block everything out.”

Pasadena Poly (10-5) appeared to have things in control, building a 37-27 lead with 6:15 left in the fourth quarter. Then the Rebels (4-9) stormed back to close out the game on a 14-2 run.

Cartwright, who sustained the injury in early December against Hart in the Falcon Classic at Crescenta Valley High, went to work in the game’s final six minutes. The senior made a three-pointer to bring the Rebels, who won the league championship last season, to within 39-33 with 3:23 left. A three-point play by Cartwright sliced the deficit to 39-38 with 1:49 to go.

Flintridge Prep’s Kyle Hamane made a pair of free throws to give the Rebels a 40-39 advantage with 38.9 seconds left. Jake Althouse of Flintridge Prep then made one of two free throws to close out the scoring with less than a second remaining.

“It’s just a great win, one of the best in my career,” said Cartwright, who scored seven of Flintridge’s Prep nine first-quarter points and finished the contest with seven rebounds and three assists. “I was nonexistent in the third quarter, so I wanted to be a lot stronger in the fourth quarter.

“We got some big stops on defense and we made some free throws down the stretch.”

Flintridge Prep Coach Garrett Ohara, who has piloted the Rebels to 11 league titles since 2002, said Cartwright provided plenty of heroics.

“It’s a gutsy performance and he’s dead tired,” said Ohara, whose team trailed, 21-17, at halftime. “He’s been gone for four weeks and his conditioning was a factor.

“Things started to fall for him in the fourth quarter. That was a classic Flintridge Prep-Pasadena Poly game.”

Andrew Tsangeos finished with nine points for Flintridge Prep.

Pasadena Poly received 13 points from Michael Bowman and 10 points and nine rebounds from Will Genske.

The teams will face off again at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 28 at Pasadena Poly.