LA CRESCENTA — For a while, it appeared as though the St. Francis High and Flintridge Prep boys' basketball teams would be locked into a tight contest.
Then, that scenario quickly vanished thanks to a huge offensive display put on by the Golden Knights.
Zack Gardea finished with 30 points and Emerson Castaneda added 19 on Tuesday afternoon to spark St. Francis to a 68-42 pool-play victory against neighbor Flintridge Prep in a pool-play game of the Falcon Classic at Crescenta Valley High.
St. Francis held an 8-7 lead with 5:10 left in the first quarter before using a 25-3 run to take a 33-10 lead with 6:06 remaining in the second quarter.
"In the first quarter and into the second quarter, we were first to every loose ball and we got some quick baskets," said St. Francis co-Coach Ray O'Brien, whose team improved to 2-0 and will next meet Hart in a pool-play game at 5:30 p.m. Thursday. "I think we were able to then get hot and pull away.
"We knew that Flintridge Prep could come back, so we looked at being able to expand our lead."
St. Francis held a 47-20 lead at halftime and never let the Rebels (1-2) get closer than 18 points early in the fourth quarter.
Flintridge Prep Coach Garrett Ohara, who guided the Rebels to the CIF Southern Section Division V-AA championship last season, said the 22-point swing proved to be the difference.
"It's 8-7 and then we started to turn the ball over a lot and that played a big part of it," said Ohara, whose team cut the lead to 8-7 on a three-pointer by sophomore guard Robert Cartwright. "It then became contagious and the wheels fell off early."
Gardea, a reigning All-Mission League selection, enjoyed a huge first half. The senior guard registered 22 points in that stretch, including 14 in the first quarter.
Gardea made a jump shot to give the Golden Knights a 17-7 lead with 2:47 remaining in the first quarter. A three-pointer by Gardea extended St. Francis' lead to 27-10 with 33 seconds left in he opening quarter.
Castaneda, a senior guard who also earned all-league accolades last season, closed out the run with a layup following a turnover to make it 33-10.
"We knew that Zack and Emerson would score some points," said O'Brien, who got eight points, eight rebounds, six assists and four steals from senior Tei Vanderford. "But we wanted to go out there and and limit Flintridge Prep defensively."
The Rebels, who will face Newbury Park in another pool-play game at 5:30 p.m. today, got 16 points from Cartwright and nine from senior guard Kory Hamane.