BURBANK — Whether competing in the Mission League or not, the St. Francis High basketball team has yet to break a bad habit of playing one poor quarter a game.
Its played a direct role in several close losses throughout most of the first half of the season for the Golden Knights and resurfaced Monday against Servite in a Martin Luther King Day Showdown game at Providence High.
“There’s a quarter almost every game in which we have trouble,” said St. Francis co-Coach Ray O’Brien, who saw Servite’s Louis Juego make a game-winning three-point shot with 5.9 seconds left to give the Friars a 44-43 victory. “We find ourselves down 10 or more points.
“We’ve been good at coming back from those deficits, but we need to do a better job at playing four quarters. It’s tough mentally to lose that way.”
The Golden Knights (11-10) had a final opportunity to win it, but a three-pointer at the buzzer by Markar Agakanian grazed the front of the rim and sent them to their sixth loss in seven games.
St. Francis struggled on both ends of the court in the first quarter. It committed five turnovers and trailed, 11-7, by the end of the opener. In the second, Servite outscored St. Francis, 16-6, to grab a 27-13 halftime advantage.
“We just couldn’t get going in the first half,” said St. Francis sophomore guard Kyle Leufroy, who finished with a game-high 15 points. “It happens a lot, especially in league.
“We get down by all of those big deficits and you just can’t do that. We need to get off to better starts.”
Leufroy and the Golden Knights had a better beginning to the second half. Backed by three three-pointers from Noah Willerford, St. Francis began the second half on a 9-2 run to close to within 29-22 midway through the third quarter.
A layup by Agakanian with 11 seconds to go in the third trimmed Servite’s lead to 33-28 and gave the Golden Knights hope at a comeback.
Leufroy gave St. Francis its first lead with a three-pointer to make it 40-37 with 4:43 left in the fourth quarter. Leading 43-41 and with the ball, St. Francis committed a turnover on an errant pass with 56.8 seconds left.
After Servite (14-8) couldn’t convert on its next possession, Leufroy had his shot blocked by Travis Waller with 28 seconds remaining. The Friars called timeout with 18 seconds left before Juego won it with a 22-foot shot.
“We didn’t get the switch that we wanted on that shot,” O’Brien said. “Credit [Waller] for hitting it.”
St. Francis got 11 points and eight rebounds from Willerford, 10 points from Agakanian and six assists and four steals from Evan Crawford.
Servite received 12 points from Juego and nine from Eric Torres.
St. Francis will next compete in a league game at 7 p.m. Wednesday against Alemany at home.