LA CANADA FLINTRIDGE — Halfway through the first quarter of its Mission League contest Wednesday night, it appeared the St. Francis High basketball team had things in control against Crespi.
The Golden Knights got the start they wanted by running off the game’s first eight points, only to see the Celts respond with an even bigger run of their own.
Crespi received a game-high 32 points from University of Virginia-bound London Perrantes to hand St. Francis a 65-58 home defeat.
Crespi (13-5, 3-0 in league) used a 26-2 run to pull away from St. Francis (10-6, 0-2) in the first of two head-to-head matchups.
“It sure felt like a 26-2 run,” said St. Francis Coach Ray O’Brien, whose team is ranked No. 5 in the latest CIF Southern Section Division III-A poll. “Crespi didn’t let our run bother them and we let their run bother us.
“One of the differences was that London was patient with his shooting and we were impatient.”
St. Francis went nearly eight minutes without scoring and was forced to play catch-up against the athletic Celts.
After Kyle Leufroy gave St. Francis an 8-0 lead with 4:10 to play in the first quarter, Crespi, ranked fifth in Division IV-AA, began to shake off the effects from its slow start and began to give the ball to Perrantes, who finished with 17 first-half points. Perrantes made a layup to give Crespi a 25-10 lead with 2:31 to play in the first half.
Leufroy, who paced St. Francis with a team-best 20 points, ended the lengthy scoring drought for the Golden Knights when he converted on a three-point play to pull the Knights to within 26-13 with 1:04 left in the second quarter. It was St. Francis’ first basket since Greg Lupica scored on a layup with 33 seconds remaining in the first quarter that cut the deficit to 11-10.
“We have had some quarters where we have not shot well,” said O’Brien, whose team fell to 1-4 in its last five games. “We just lost our confidence when they started to come back on us.”
Crespi held a 29-15 halftime advantage.
St. Francis played considerably better throughout most of the second half.
The Golden Knights closed to within 46-41 on a basket by Markar Agakanian with 4:04 left in the fourth quarter. Seemingly with momentum and in line for a potential comeback bid, St. Francis’ fortunes changed on the ensuing possession.
It appeared Agakanian blocked a shot by Perrantes, but the officials called a blocking foul. Agakanian, who registered 10 points, protested the call before receiving a technical foul.
Perrantes made all four free throws to give Crespi a 50-41 with 3:53 left.
“I couldn’t see it, but it was not worthy of a technical,” O’Brien said. “I think [Agakanian] just got caught up in the emotion.”
Leufroy said the Golden Knights were prepared for Crespi’s offensive schemes.
“We’d been practicing all week how to defend against them,” Leufroy said. “We knew if we could stop London, then we’d have a chance.
“It just didn’t work out the way we wanted it to. We still played pretty good defense against a team that’s scored 70 or more points a lot of times.”
St. Francis will meet Crespi again at 7 p.m. Jan. 28 at Crespi.
The Golden Knights will next participate in another league game at 7 p.m. Friday against host Loyola, ranked No. 4 in Division I-AA.