WEST HILLS — It's been a long two-week stretch for the members of the St. Francis High basketball team.
The Golden Knights finished with one win in their last six games in the Mission League and the CIF Southern Section Division III-A playoffs are around the corner with St. Francis looking to escape their recent struggles.
“It turned out to be a rough second-half stretch for us,” said St. Francis junior forward John Carroll, who finished with 16 points. “Now, we get another shot in going to the playoffs.
“We are now 0-0 and look forward to the challenge of trying to make a long run in the playoffs.”
St. Francis dropped to 15-11 and 4-8 in league and is ranked third in the latest division poll. Chaminade, which outscored St. Francis, 26-10, in the fourth quarter, improved to 21-4, 9-3 and is ranked second in the division. The Golden Knights and Eagles split the two head-to-head season matchups.
For the Golden Knights, who have dropped four games in a row, Carroll said it’s a matter of being a bit more efficient on both ends of the court.
“We've lost some tough games throughout the second half [of league],” Carroll said. “It just a matter of fixing a couple of things, like finishing with our scoring chances.
“We had the lead going into the fourth quarter, but then we had that tough fourth quarter.”
Chaminade received a game-high 26 points from senior forward Jack Williams, including 14 in the second half.
The Eagles held a 33-25 halftime advantage before the Golden Knights, who posted a 54-46 home win in the first meeting Jan. 27, regrouped. Junior guard Kyle Leufroy, a reigning All-Area selection, finished with 13 of his team-high 22 points in the third quarter to help give St. Francis a 49-43 lead.
He made a three-pointer to give the Golden Knights a 45-40 advantage with 2:22 remaining in the third quarter.
Chaminade, which advanced to the CIF championship game last season, overcame St. Francis' strong third-quarter showing by clicking on offense.
A three-pointer by senior guard Justin Eisen gave the Eagles a 60-56 lead with 2:13 remaining in the fourth quarter. A three-point play by Leufroy pulled the Golden Knights to within 63-59 with 51 seconds left.
St. Francis co-Coach Ray O'Brien said the Golden Knights showed some signs of improvement following a 48-44 league loss against Sherman Oaks Notre Dame on the road Monday.
“We wanted to come out and play a good game,” O'Brien said. “I thought we played much better as a team tonight and we just have to still learn to find a way to finish.
“Give Chaminade credit. They shot the ball much better against us this time and Jack hit some big shots. Even though we lost, I'm still optimistic about our team going into the playoffs.”
The playoff pairings will be unveiled Sunday.