Because of the way basketball is designed and played at every level, it’s essentially a sport in which running and jumping are paramount, and as such there are numerous scoring spurts that take place over the course of a game.
If played at an uptempo, break-neck pace, it’s possible to collect points in a hurry, and with the three-point shot, extended runs are likely so it wasn’t a surprise that St. Francis High’s 11-0 fourth-quarter outburst propelled the Golden Knights to a come-from-behind, 56-53, win over neighbor La Canada in last Friday night’s CIF Southern Section Division III-A semifinal battle at Maranatha High in Pasadena.
The spurt enabled the Golden Knights to advance to the championship round versus No. 4 seeded Oak Park (20-10) on Friday, and will be the first time they have a chance to claim a CIF title.
Junior guard Kyle Leufroy’s 22 points set the pace for St. Francis, and he had 12 points at the half, and eight in the fourth quarter.
Behind for two and a half quarters, the No. 2 seeded Golden Knights (19-11), allowed into the tournament as an at-large team, trailed 51-44 when La Canada senior guard Kevin Depriest canned a three-pointer with 6:35 showing in the fourth quarter.
St. Francis turned that deficit around and tallied the next five hoops and led, 55-51, with 1:36 showing.
The Golden Knights’ lead was trimmed to two points when La Canada sophomore guard Ko Ko Kurdoghlian (13 points) drilled two free throws for the No. 3 seeded Spartans, who were led in scoring by sophomore guard Grant Arthur with 20 points.
After St. Francis, ranked 110th in the state by the website Maxpreps, scored the first six points, La Canada, which entered the fray with an 11-game winning streak, took a 13-10 lead after the first quarter, and then outscored the Golden Knights, 19-16, in the second quarter.
The Spartans (23-7), who are the 221st ranked team by Maxpreps, have won two CIF hoop crowns under longtime Head Coach Tom Hofman, but on this evening his club couldn’t hold the lead.
Senior forward Noah Willerford added 12 points and pulled down seven rebounds for the Golden Knights, who began their playoff run with a 63-59 victory over Yucca Valley, added a 69-45 triumph over San Dimas in the second round, before easily pushing aside Gladstone, 55-43, in the quarterfinals.