St. Francis runs out of gas in OT

WEST HILLS — All the momentum belonged to the St. Francis High basketball team as it overcame a five-point fourth-quarter deficit to force overtime against Chaminade Thursday night.

Unfortunately for the Golden Knights, none of their five shots fell in the extra session, as Chaminade held on for a 55-48 Mission League victory at home.

It was a back-and-fourth affair as the lead changed hands nine times in the game, which also featured two ties, and no team held a lead greater than seven points.

St. Francis co-Coach Ray O'Brien said his team simply got tired out in the extra session.

"We came back in the second half when we were down," O'Brien said. "I think we just expended too much energy getting back. We came out flat in that overtime and it was over."

The Golden Knights (8-11, 1-4 in league) began trading blows with the Eagles in the fourth quarter after being down, 40-35, early in the quarter, which included two lead changes and a tie.

St. Francis' Emerson Castaneda led the comeback attempt by hitting two straight jumpers in the final three minutes of regulation with his team down, 44-40. He finished the game with a team-high 14 points, eight coming in the fourth.

Castaneda's first score came off a jumper at the top of the key with 3:07 remaining to cut Chaminade's lead to two. He came right back down the floor after an Eagles miss and hit a three-pointer to put the Knights up, 45-44, with 2:30 to go.

The Eagles (12-6, 2-3) went back up, 46-45, on a floating layup from Justin Eisen with 2:05 remaining.

Neither team would score again until 41 seconds were left when Castaneda hit another jumper with a defender right in his face to put St. Francis back up, 47-46. Chaminade's Aadit Patel answered back with a wild, twisting layup to give his team the lead with 20 seconds left.

Castaneda went to the line after being fouled on the ensuing inbound play. He made the first of two free throws to tie the game at 48 with 10 seconds left. He missed on the second and Chaminade's Jaron Martin, who had a game-high 18 points, rebounded it and drove up the floor.

Castaneda got back and forced a steal just outside Chaminade's three-point line with 1.9 seconds left.

The Golden Knights called a timeout and drew up an inbound play. They didn't get a good look after having to work the ball up from about three-quarters court as a desperation three-pointer from St. Francis' Noah Willerford was off the mark, sending the game to overtime.

Chaminade got out to a 52-48 lead in the extra four minutes on back-to-back layups from Zach Miller (13 points) and Martin. Jack Williams, who finished with 14 points, seven rebounds and three blocks, was also big for the Eagles in overtime, as he hit three of four free throws in the final four minutes to seal the game.

St. Francis missed all five of its shots in overtime with two of them coming from behind the arc.

"In overtime, we didn't get a lot of good looks and you start to press when you miss," O'Brien said. "They get a four-point lead and you're pressing a little bit, but it was as good a Mission League game as you're going to see."

Tei Vanderford was big for the Golden Knights early, scoring 12 points and grabbing seven rebounds in the game. Zack Gardea also had eight points for St. Francis.

Despite the disappointing result, O'Brien knew he couldn't ask for much more from his players.

"You're teaching them to compete and they competed to the end," he said. "One shot makes a difference in that game. Overall, we're proud of them."

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