Shooting slump seals St. Francis' fate in Vaquero Classic

NORTHEAST GLENDALE — Even two of the most prolific pure scorers in the area couldn't bail the St. Francis High basketball team out of an epic bad shooting night that plagued the entire squad during the second half of Friday's Vaquero Summer Classic pool-play game at Glendale Community College.

The Golden Knights trailed La Salle by just four points at halftime, and never by more than single digits, but couldn't get their offense into any kind of flow over the final 20 minutes. St. Francis went the first 12 minutes of the second half without making a field goal and made just three of 22 attempts from the field in the half to lose, 42-33, and finish second in Pool A.

Reigning All-Mission League second-team guards Zack Gardea and Emerson Castaneda led the Golden Knights in scoring with 12 and nine points, respectively, but neither could shoot the team out of its collective funk. St. Francis co-Coach Ray O'Brien said the shooting slump exposed the deficiencies his team needs to correct over the rest of the summer.

"We are still relying on two guys too much and they both had off-nights tonight, shooting-wise," O'Brien said. "We don't have any chemistry yet to be able to play team offense, so when the one-on-one stuff doesn't work, you're in deep trouble.

"Really what we talked to them about is you really have to work on your chemistry. Right now we're just a team of guys playing one on one with a couple talented players who were off tonight."

Free throws kept St. Francis within striking distance at 31-24 before it recorded its first field goal of the half on a wide-open layup. But that breakthrough couldn't open the floodgates for the Golden Knights, who didn't make another basket until the 2:20 mark, when Gardea knocked down a floater in the lane while being fouled for a three-point play. That basket made it 35-29 and the running clock ceased inside the 2:00 mark to give St. Francis a chance, but La Salle converted on its own three-point play moments later to bump the lead back up to nine.

St. Francis will play Crescenta Valley at 12:20 p.m. today in the first day of the playoff round. The Falcons, who opened with a loss to Grant on Thursday, beat Maranatha, 50-27, on Friday to finish second in Pool B.

"We will have a chance to play CV tomorrow and CV is the other extreme, I would say," O'Brien said. "I think four of their five starters are back, so that will be a good chance to compare ourselves to a bunch of guys who have played together and know their roles. I expect to learn a lot from that."

Glendale, having already clinched Pool C with a pair of wins Thursday, was idle Friday, while Hoover evened its pool-play record to 1-1 with a 55-51 win over Verdugo Hills on Friday.

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