PASADENA — Ray O'Brien and Tom Hofman know plenty about each other, having coached basketball together for nearly 20 years.
O'Brien and Jeff Stephens were assistants under Hofman, the veteran La Cañada High boys' coach, before O'Brien and Stephens became co-coaches at St. Francis in 2008. While O'Brien and Stephens still keep in touch with Hofman, they are also well aware of his play-calling abilities.
On Thursday night, O'Brien saw something he remembered well from his days sitting next to Hofman on the bench — a back-door pass that led to a clutch basket late in a game.
"I've seen that play so many times from Tom," O'Brien said after St. Francis fell to neighbor La Cañada, 51-46, in the third-place contest of the La Salle/Temple City Holiday Basketball Classic at La Salle High. "It was a good play and they executed on it well."
O'Brien was referring to a basket by senior guard Dario CiVon that gave the Spartans (12-1) a 48-46 lead with 1:10 remaining in the contest. CiVon then made a layup with 28 seconds left to make it 50-46.
St. Francis (7-6) lost to La Cañada for the third time since O'Brien and Stephens took over at St. Francis. It marked the second time the Golden Knights fell to the Spartans in the La Salle/Temple City Holiday Basketball Classic, the first coming after La Cañada picked up a 57-46 victory in a semifinal contest Dec. 29, 2008.
St. Francis had an opportunity to snap the brief losing streak against the Spartans, but La Cañada held St. Francis scoreless in the final 2:31.
"It's a friendly rivalry," said Hofman, who got 16 points from CiVon and 15 rebounds from senior forward Matt Faber. "St. Francis did a good job and it's good preparation for us.
"Dario made some huge layups for us. Good defense keeps you in the game and it gave both teams an opportunity to win."
St. Francis got a three-pointer from junior guard Emerson Castaneda with 2:31 left to give the Golden Knights a 46-44 lead.
The Spartans competed without starting senior guard Michael McGlashan, who is recovering from a right-ankle injury. McGlashan suffered the setback during the third quarter of a tournament victory against Crescenta Valley on Tuesday at Temple City High.
"His ankle just hurt, and he would have liked to have played against St. Francis," Hofman said.
It took some time Thursday for the Spartans to get acclimated with McGlashan not available to participate. Fortunately for the Spartans, they had CiVon step up and ignite them.
CiVon made a three-pointer to knot the game at 19 with 5:02 left in the second quarter. A three-pointer by St. Francis senior forward Ben Maynard with 20 seconds remaining in the first half made it 27-24.
La Cañada held a 35-33 lead entering the fourth quarter.
Castaneda finished with a team-high 15 points, all via three-pointers. The Golden Knights also got 12 points from junior guard Zack Gardea, including nine from three-point territory.
"The difference in the game was that they had some guys come off the bench who did well," O'Brien said. "We are happy in general with the way we have played in the first month of the season.
"We are satisfied and we have proven we can compete with anybody in our division."