TEMPLE CITY — For three quarters, the St. Francis High basketball team was nearly flawless, from three-point territory, on defense, in transition and in running its offense.
For the fourth quarter, the Golden Knights just got to relax because three quarters of relentless pounding allowed them to insert all of their substitutes for the final eight minutes.
St. Francis had a 40-point lead late in the third quarter and was on cruise control in the fourth in defeating Alhambra, 78-56, on Saturday night in a first-round game of the La Salle/Temple City Holiday Classic at Temple City.
St. Francis (5-4) will play Temple City, a 57-51 winner against Marshall, at 6 p.m. today at Temple City in a second-round game.
St. Francis co-Coach Jeff Stephens said Saturday’s performance wasn’t his team’s best all-around game of the year, but was its best shooting night.
The Golden Knights were too quick on offense and had too many open looks, as they were 19 of 36 from the field in the first half, when they had a 50-20 lead.
St. Francis was also 10 of 21 from beyond the three-point arc in the half.
“We know we have good shooters,” Stephens said. “They finally showed up.”
He was referring to a number of players.
Tommy Jordan paced the Golden Knights with a team-high 18 points, all of which came before the fourth quarter. Teammate Emerson Castaneda had 16 points, including four first-half three-pointers, and St. Francis’ Spencer Nieves had 11 points.
Castaneda and Jordan started the shooting onslaught midway through the first quarter.
With the score tied at six, Jordan hit two consecutive three-pointers. Castaneda followed with a pair of three-pointers himself, as St. Francis went on a 12-0 run.
Alhambra (2-9) scored to make the score 18-8, but that was the last basket it had for five minutes.
From the end of the first quarter to the four-minute mark of the second, St. Francis used a 17-0 run to build a 27-point lead. Alhambra, which committed 11 first-half turnovers to St. Francis’ two, never got to within 20 again.
Every Golden Knight scored or had an assist, as Sevan Zarifian added seven points and Ian Hamilton contributed six points.
“We came out with a lot of energy,” Jordan said. “We had the ability to create turnovers and get easy shots.”
St. Francis had plenty of easy shots in the third quarter, as well, before it began to clear its bench with a 70-30 lead.
Said Stephens: “I was glad the guys paid attention and stayed focused — for three quarters anyways.”