Following a three-hour bus ride to Lompoc, St. Francis High basketball co-Coach Ray O'Brien wondered how his team would respond once it took the court Wednesday night for its opening-round playoff contest.
The Golden Knights showed the effects from the 140-mile journey north by committing several turnovers early and having to play catch-up.
Seventh-seeded St. Francis overcame its jitters and sloppiness by playing sound defense in the second half to earn a 56-34 victory in a CIF Southern Section Division III-A contest.
“It took almost three hours to get up there, but the traffic wasn’t too bad,” said O’Brien, whose team improved to 16-13 and will meet visiting San Dimas in a second-round game at 7 p.m. Friday. “It wasn’t easy for us because we came out slow.
“We were down, 12-9, after the first quarter. We had seven first-quarter turnovers and I think that was from the long trip. Lompoc came out and got to some loose balls. We did better in the second half, limiting them to 13 points. For some of the guys, it was their first playoff experience. We made some adjustments [at halftime] and were able to lock them down defensively.”
St. Francis, which received an at-large berth coming out of the ultra-competitive Mission League, received a balanced scoring attack to overcome Lompoc (10-10).
Junior guard Jake Beck paced the Golden Knights with a team-high 15 points, all off the bench. Sophomore forwards Kyle Leufroy and Markar Agakanian collected 12 and 10 points, respectively, for the Golden Knights. Evan Crawford, a junior guard, notched eight points, 10 rebounds, seven assists and three steals for the Golden Knights.
“Jake came off the bench and gave us a lot,” said O’Brien, whose team held a 24-21 halftime advantage. “You just don’t know who will be called upon to show up.
“Jake got that opportunity, he played smart and got hot at the right time. With Evan, he played great all around and didn’t have a turnover. We had a pretty balanced attack.”