Burroughs basketball heats up to take down St. Francis

When the shots don’t fall, it can be easy to fold. 

For more than six minutes Sunday afternoon in the second half, everything was up in the air for the Burroughs High boys’ basketball team.

But after losing their halftime lead to a lengthy scoring drought and a lackluster performance from beyond the arc, the Indians battled back to outlast St. Francis, 48-43, in the Glendale Community College Vaquero Classic.

“Everybody thinks we don’t pass the eye test because we’re really small,” said Burroughs forward Frank Gonzalez, who contributed eight points, seven rebounds and two steals. “But we have a couple of guards who can shoot and a couple of drivers and slashers. It feels good to play as a team and go 3-1 in the tournament.”  

As a group, the Indians showed plenty of resiliency when the offense sputtered.

With 15:27 remaining in the second half and the Indians clutching a 25-23 halftime advantage, Gonzalez smoothly maneuvered the length of the court to convert a layup that pushed Burroughs’ lead to 27-23.

But that’s when things went awry.  

St. Francis ventured on an 8-0 run to grab a 31-27 lead, before Gonzalez sank one of two free-throws with 9:27 left to break the cold spell.

“We got a little sloppy and the fatigue set in a little bit for us,” said Indians assistant coach Scott Koulouvaris, who was acting in place of coach Adam Hochberg. “They took the lead and then we just went back to our basics. Our whole key is to try and get these guys together as a team.”

The fundamentals of Burroughs’ comeback included a pair of three-pointers from Steven Sanchez and Gonzalez, along with a smooth jumper from John Cutone that helped to ignite the Indians on a 9-4 spurt.

“We ran an offense that was five-out,” Gonzalez said. “We tried to get guys in the perimeter and get our shooters going.”

Burroughs would never relinquish the lead.

A key putback from Steven Hubbell with just under four minutes remaining kept the momentum on the Indians’ side, as St. Francis struggled to find success from the perimeter.

The Golden Knights, who had eight second-half turnovers, cut the deficit to 42-39 on Michael Ibarra’s open jumper from just in front of the foul line at the 2:46 mark. But a pair of costly turnovers with under a minute to play forced St. Francis to foul before Burroughs put the game away at the line.  

Hubbell had a team-high 11 points and seven rebounds for Burroughs and Sanchez added 10 points and connected on three of seven shots from three-point range.

“What’s best about this team is that you never know what two it’s going to be,” Koulouvaris said. “It’s always someone different every game. That’s what makes this game so nice to coach.”   

The Golden Knights shot 12.5 percent ( two for 16) from the three-point arc in the game, but outrebounded Burroughs, 20-14, in the first half to stick around with a series of second-chance points. The lead changed hands six times in the first half and the Indians led by as many as six points in the frame before St. Francis went on an 8-0 run to go up, 15-13, on Markar Agakanian’s layup with 5:06 remaining. 

“It was kind of brutal — the last two days,” said Golden Knights co-Coach Ray OBrien, whose squad played eight games in four days. “We were missing a couple guys all week. By today we were missing four starters. It’s a good opportunity for the rest of those guys to develop and learn and get way more minutes than they normally would.”

Ibarra registered 11 points and five rebounds for St. Francis and Agakanian contributed seven points and five rebounds.  

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