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St. Francis basketball holds off late Alemany rally for league victory

LA CAÑADA — The St. Francis basketball team looked to shake off an opening-quarter slump and tried to find focus in the final minutes against Alemany.

The Golden Knights made three field goals on 17 tries in the first quarter and regrouped to lead by 16 points later in the contest, only to see the Warriors go on 12-point run late in the game to cut the lead to five.

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St. Francis coach Todd Wolfson figured he needed to calm himself, and that in turn would ease his team.

It seemed to work, as St. Francis hit clutch free throws late in the game and hung on to a 64-55 victory against Alemany to earn its second Mission League victory at home Wednesday.

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“You know, sometimes you’re a representation of your team and when you’re sped up, you’re losing it and not cool and collected, then they aren’t, too,” Wolfson said. “I just tried to calm myself down and make sure that they can feel that same vibe from me.

“Sometimes on senior night, it overwhelms the actual game. It takes away from the game, so I was just trying to let them calm down and know what we can do. Alemany is such a great team that we wanted to make sure we kind of hung around when we were in a little bit of a funk.”

Golden Knights junior Andre Henry kept the hosts within two points in the first quarter as he hit two of St. Francis’ field goals in the opening quarter.

Then, in the second quarter, Henry’s post-play gave the Golden Knights opportunities to score on the other end. Henry picked up a pair of defensive rebounds and scored on both possessions to put the Golden Knights’ up, 27-18, with 1:06 left in the half.

Henry led St. Francis (21-5, 2-3 in league) with 31 points, 14 rebounds, six assists, two blocks and one steal.

“We were in a slump,” said Henry, who had 13 points in the first half. “We were getting good shots, we just weren’t hitting and I felt like. As one of the leaders, I had to step up when shots aren’t falling and attack and create for everyone because, eventually, everything is going to fall.”

Alemany also had trouble making shots early on and led, 8-6, at the close of the first quarter.

St. Francis senior Kevin House hit a three-pointer to even the game at 11 with 5:31 left in the second quarter before Henry got Dennis Flowers III involved after the senior missed all of his shots in the first quarter.

“I know the team needs me to score some times, so I just had to be confident in my shot when it’s not falling,” Flowers said. “Who else is going to be confident if you’re not confident in yourself, so I had to stay ready, and so I did. My teammates also pushed me to shoot.”

Flowers finished with 14 points and 10 rebounds after struggling in the first quarter.

The Warriors closed the half with a basket to cut the Golden Knights’ lead to 27-20.

Alemany pulled to within two points early in the second half, but Henry and Flowers responded to lift the Golden Knights to a 30-25 lead.

The two prompted the Golden Knights to go on a 9-0 run that led to a 36-25 lead midway into the third quarter.

“Coach draws up a lot of good plays for us, so he chose us to trust our shots,” Flowers said. “Our open shots are always good ones, so he won’t get mad if we take an open one and miss. We just had to trust the process and Andre picked us up a little bit on the offensive end. We stuck through it and started hitting.”

The Golden Knights held a double-digit lead for much of the third quarter, but an Alemany three-pointer at the buzzer cut the lead to 42-34.

A pair of big shots from St. Francis junior Kai Glassen restored the Golden Knights’ double-digit lead, 47-35, with 6:43 left in regulation.

The Golden Knights extended their lead to 58-41 with 3:38 left after a 7-0 run, fueled by Flowers.

The Warriors rallied late to make it 60-55, but clutch free throws from Henry and Flowers down the stretch quelled the threat.

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