PASADENA — Given that the St. Francis High basketball team — a team that relies heavily on three-point shooting — struggled from behind the arc against Hoover on Monday night, one would assume the end result was a bleak one for the Golden Knights.
But the Golden Knights overcame cold shooting from the field and came alive to hit three from long range in less than two minutes during the late stages of the fourth quarter when the team needed it most.
Down by a point, Sevan Zarifian, Emerson Castaneda, and Zack Gardea hit consecutive three-point field goals, which proved insurmountable for the Tornadoes and helped give the Golden Knights their third straight victory, 43-34, in the opening round of the La Salle/Temple City Holiday Basketball Classic.
“We couldn’t hit a shot in the first half, but we know we can hit threes,” St. Francis co-Coach Jeff Stephens said. “We just need to get it from our offense.”
Gardea’s long-range shot gave St. Francis a 39-31 lead with 2:20 remaining. The Tornadoes got to within five points after a Kyle Bernardo basket, but the late onslaught proved to be too damaging and too deep into the ballgame.
The usually sharp-shooting Castaneda was held to 0-for-nine shooting before finally connecting. He finished the game one for 11 shooting but the three points couldn’t have come at a better time.
“We shutdown Emerson, and played good defense,” Hoover Coach Jack Van Patten said. “They just made good runs, and critical shots.”
Gardea led all scorers with 17. He and Zarifian’s nine points helped nullify the off-night from Castaneda.
The Tornadoes (1-6) had struggles of their own, scoring three and four points in the first and third quarters, respectively. They ended the first quarter shooting just one of eight and scored their first basket with more than six minutes elapsed on a Bernardo three-pointer.
St. Francis (6-4) outscored the Tornadoes, 15-4, in the third quarter largely attributed to a 9-0 run that turned a three-point deficit into a six-point advantage. It was another sub-par shooting stanza for Hoover, which made just two of nine shots.
Still, the three point-shooting was there for the Tornadoes. Artin Mirzakhanyan made two unanswered three-pointers midway through the fourth quarter to give Hoover its first lead since the second quarter. The Tornadoes made seven from behind the arc on 16 attempts.
But, ultimately, Hoover struggled from the field and, in addition to turnovers, resulted in Hoover’s fifth straight defeat.
Hoover also missed eight free throws.
“We kept the score down, and could’ve won but give them credit,” Van Patten said, “they didn’t crumble.”
Bernardo and Aden Ziraki each had eight points for the Tornadoes, who also got 20 rebounds from Arbi Abelian, who exploited the Golden Knights’ guard-heavy offense.
St. Francis hadn’t played a game since defeating Arcadia nine days prior.
“We came back from vacation, and in the first half it looked like our shooters were still on vacation,” Stephens said.
Hoover will play at 3 p.m. at La Salle today, while St. Francis plays at 6. St. Francis will play the winner between St. Paul and Mark Keppel, while Hoover will take on the loser.