LA CAÑADA — In the first round of the boys’ basketball playoffs, St. Francis had to muster a fourth-quarter comeback to advance.
In the second round against visiting Beckman, there would be no drama or need for more heroics.
The Golden Knights came out aggressive and stayed that way, running over the visiting Patriots for a dominant 94-52 victory in a CIF Southern Section Division III-AA game Tuesday.
The win advances St. Francis to the quarterfinals on Thursday when it will be on the road against Oxnard.
“We talked about just being aggressive and playing our way. It’s our gym and we were fortunate enough to play at home,” St. Francis coach Todd Wolfson said. “At this point in the season there is no magic; it’s kind of on [my players] to pick it up and play as hard as they can. They definitely did that tonight.”
St. Francis (24-7) was led by Dennis Flowers III, who routinely found his way to the rim and finished with a game-high 25 points. The senior was especially potent in the first half, when he poured in 19 points.
“It was great. We were hitting shots, moving the ball, sharing it. It felt great. It’s a great team win,” Flowers said. “We got going and fed off the energy.”
Golden Knights Andre Henry also found success cutting into the lane and racked up 21 points.
Junior Jason Gallant was not far behind with 20 points for St. Francis. Gallant shone particularly bright in the third quarter, when he scored 11. In total, St. Francis had nine players score, with Matthew Molina tallying eight points.
The Golden Knights finished No. 4 in the final Division III-AA poll, but needed an at-large berth to get into the postseason. After the convincing win against Beckman (20-9), it was obvious why they earned a playoff nod.
“We came out and we wanted it. We wanted to win. We don’t even deserve to be here [in the playoffs],” Henry said. “[The committee] gave us the last spot and we just came out and showed why we [do] deserve to be here.”
Beckman, the Pacific Coast League champion, had its final advantage at 4-3, but after that the Golden Knights went on a 9-0 run. That put St. Francis up for good.
Flowers had 11 points in the opening quarter, which he finished off with two three-pointers sandwiched around a Patriots basket. The second came off a sidestep with his dribble to make space and a 24-15 lead going into the second quarter.
“We really needed to set the tone,” Flowers said of the first quarter. “The other team was shaken by our crowd and we just fed off that energy. We took it and we ran with it.”
St. Francis opened the second quarter with a 9-0 run. In the burst the first seven points were scored in transition off Golden Knight steals. The cushion ballooned to 20 for the first time in the final minute, when Flowers scored on a put-back for the final points of the half.
St. Francis led, 47-27, at the break.
The first points of the second half came from Henry. Following a Beckman miss, Henry drove the length of the floor, maneuvering around a couple of Patriots and finishing with a definitive two-handed dunk.
Just over halfway through the third, the cushion reached 30 for the first time following a corner three from Kai Glassen. The quarter ended with another make from beyond the arc when Gallant hit from the corner to make it 72-41.
The Golden Knights kept moving in the fourth. They went on a 9-0 run in the middle of the final stanza, ballooning the lead to 40 following a reverse layup by Molina. At that point, the benches emptied and the final 3:58 was played by the reserves, one of whom, Luka Bradvica, hit two long balls.
“This was fun,” Wolfson said. “Some of these guys will remember this their whole lives. Whether we win or lose the next game, this is something they will always remember. That is why we are so fortunate to be in the playoffs.”