The good fortune that the St. Francis High boys’ basketball team carried around during this playoff run wasn’t enough against No. 4 seeded Oak Park in the CIF Southern Section Division III-A title game in Azusa this past Friday.
Even though the Golden Knights were the No. 2 seed, and wiped out a five-point deficit that tied the game, they allowed a seven-point spurt by the Eagles, who earned a 60-53 victory.
This was the Golden Knights’ first-ever finals appearance, and it didn’t end the way they hoped despite Kyle Leufroy’s game-best 26 points, which was accomplished despite an injured ankle.
When Leufroy, a junior guard, stole an inbounds pass at midcourt that was intended for junior forward Robert Vetti (18 points) with about a half-minute left, the Golden Knights (19-12) trailed by three points.
Leufroy raced to the three-point line, heaved up a trey that missed, but was fouled on the shot by Vetti.
Leufroy drilled all three free throws that knotted it at 53-53, but the Golden Knights surrendered seven points to the Eagles (21-10), who picked up their first championship after finishing second twice.
Oak Park’s lead became 55-53 when Vetti added two free throws and 27 seconds left, it became four points with a dozen seconds as junior Michael Alvarez knocked in two more charity shots, and was iced when the Eagles canned three more from the free-throw line.
With 55 seconds showing Oak Park led, 55-48, when Alvarez (18 points) popped in two free throws.
The Golden Knights trimmed the lead to 53-50 when sophomore guard Dylan Crawford scored and 31 seconds left in the fourth quarter.
St. Francis trailed 42-34 with 2:29 remaining in the third quarter, but closed out the period with a 7-0 outburst.
The Eagles fell behind 2-0 early, pulled in front 14-7 heading into the second quarter, and controlled the contest until Leufroy (seven rebounds) scored to give St. Francis a 43-42 lead with just under six minutes left in the final quarter.
Oak Park was in front, 21-9, in the second quarter, but the Golden Knights ended the stanza with a 17-7 blitz and trailed at the half, 28-26.
Senior swingman Evan Crawford tallied eight points and pulled down 12 boards for the Golden Knights.