Golden Knights basketball keeps up intensity for win

BURBANK — Approximately two minutes into the second half of his team's game against Heritage Christian at the Providence Varsity Summer Tournament on Saturday, St. Francis High boys' basketball Coach Jeff Stephens called a timeout. Though the Golden Knights held a comfortable 11-point advantage, the coach didn't like what he was seeing.

"These guys have trouble concentrating," Stephens said. "You can see that they play their tails off. They play really hard, but they have trouble concentrating for an extended period of time. So I was just trying to challenge them to stay focused on what they were trying to do."

The effort and the concentration held, as St. Francis went on to blow out Heritage Christian, 59-30.

"We're looking for them to play hard, which they've done all summer long," Stephens said. "So we've progressed to trying to get them to play smart, which they're not even close to doing.

"[Staying focused is] a challenge with this team in particular."

The victory against Heritage Christian was the Golden Knights' second game of the day. St. Francis fell to Kennedy, 51-37.

Early on against Heritage Christian, the game was a tight affair. The Golden Knights led just 11-9 midway through the first half, but took a 28-18 advantage into the break.

Jordan Lynch had a big game for St. Francis. The soon-to-be senior led all scorers with 11 points, all coming in the first half. The guard was hot early, logging nine of his team's first 11 points.

St. Francis extended its halftime lead to 32-18 early in the second half before Stephens' timeout.

Noah Willerford, who will be a junior at the start of the school year, said that his coach wanted the team to not let Heritage Christian back in the game.

"He just wanted us to push that lead forward," said Willerford, who finished with 10 points.

Pushing the lead forward is what St. Francis did. Led by Willerford's eight second-half points, the Golden Knights coasted to the 59-30 victory. Philip Little added nine points.

Willerford said he's been working on driving to his left, making open shots and getting his teammates involved in these summer league games.

"Mostly just that, get my teammates involved," Willerford said. "We have a lot of players who are very good, but they just need to get the ball."

The Golden Knights applied lessons from the earlier loss to Kennedy.

"We let their shooters shoot too much," Willerford said. "Our offense wasn't very good. We weren't taking smart shots. I think our shot selection in the second game was way better than in the first game."

Stephens has seen progress.

"It was a step forward," the coach said. "They played better."

St. Francis continues tournament play on Sunday at 2 p.m.

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