Knights rain down threes in victory

BURBANK — Once the passes arrived in the hands of Emerson Castaneda, he knew precisely what to do with the ball.

The more it happened, the more comfortable the St. Francis High basketball player became behind the three-point arc.

Castaneda made a game-high six three-pointers Thursday night to spur St. Francis to an easy 63-48 win against Huntington Park in a Burbank Summer League contest at Burbank High.

"I was in a groove and the guys knew where to make the crisp passes," said Castaneda, who finished with a game-best 24 points. "They were able to help me out.

"I'm a streaky shooter and I was able to get in a rhythm. Our offense is there, but we want to be able to improve on our defense. We need to pick up our intensity on defense some more."

St. Francis also received 16 points from Zack Gardea, including 12 from beyond the three-point arc. The Golden Knights, who qualified for the playoffs the last two seasons, had eight three-pointers in the first half to build a 37-20 halftime advantage.

St. Francis co-Coach Ray O'Brien, whose team held the Spartans to one field goal in the first quarter to take a 17-4 lead, said while the Golden Knights can be a streaky team with three-point shooting, he doesn't want his squad to become one-dimensional.

"We know that we are a good three-point shooting team, but the danger is that you get to the point where you rely on those shots and you don't run your entire offense," O'Brien said. "It's nice to reconfirm that we are good with our three-point shooting, but we just don't want to be one-dimensional.

"[Huntington Park] played a zone and we have guys who can shoot in those situations."

St. Francis made five three-pointers in a row in the first quarter. Gardea, a junior guard, made his second in a row to give the Golden Knights a 17-0 lead with 3:10 remaining. The Spartans missed their first 12 shots from the floor.

Castaneda, a junior guard, made two straight three-pointers in the second quarter. Castaneda's second one extended St. Francis' lead to 32-17 with 4:10 left in the second quarter.

"Our defense has gotten a lot better, and I thought we played pretty good defense in the first half," O'Brien said. "I was equally unpleased with the way we played on defense in the second half because we gave them a lot of uncontested shots."

Huntington Park pulled to within 37-25 with 7:19 remaining in the third quarter. However, the Spartans could get no closer and the Golden Knights then raced to a 52-33 lead entering the fourth quarter.

The Golden Knights competed without three players. Travis Talianko, Ian Hamilton and Keith Enterante missed the contest because of football obligations.

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