LA CAÑADA FLINTRIDGE — Heading into its contest against Hart at home on Friday night, the St. Francis High basketball team had only lost one game this season.
Well, the Golden Knights now have two losses.
St. Francis came up short in another thriller to Hart, losing, 67-62.
Down 18 with just under four minutes remaining in the game, the Golden Knights rallied to within 65-62 in the waning seconds before coming up short.
“For one, we were knocking down our shots,” said St. Francis' Noah Willerford of his team's rally. “We bared down on defense. We just pushed it and it worked in our favor.”
Willerford finished with 23 points, but the big buckets came down the stretch. The junior scored eight points in the final 71 seconds, including a pair of three-pointers.
Kyle Leufroy hit a three with 11 seconds left to put the Golden Knights to within 65-62, but that's as close as the rally got.
“Obviously, when you have nothing left to lose, you sometimes fight with a reckless abandon that we need them to come out on the floor with,” said St. Francis Coach Ray O'Brien. “I tell you one thing, our kids are never going to quit.”
The game was ugly early on. With St. Francis (7-2) up, 6-5, Hart went on a 15-2 run to close out the first quarter. The Indians took a 39-14 advantage into halftime after the Golden Knights managed only six points in the second period.
St. Francis had difficulties dealing with Hart's press.
“Hart gambles on a press, and they do a good job of it, and we weren't as good breaking it,” O'Brien said. “We never got anything going against their press.”
The Golden Knights cut the 25-point deficit down to 41-26 midway through the third quarter, but Hart regrouped. It looked as though the rout was on when the Indians held a 61-43 advantage with just under four minutes remaining in the game, before the Golden Knights’ manic rally.
Leufroy finished with 10 points, six rebounds and five assists. Evan Crawford added eight points, nine rebounds and six assists in the losing effort.
Lewis Stallworth led Hart (10-0) with 24 points and six rebounds. Myles Franklin added 13 points.
“We just wanted to play with better effort,” said Hart Coach Tom Kelly. “We played an unbelievable first half, and then we stopped playing.”