St. Francis basketball's loss to Hart is year's first

LA CANADA FLINTRIDGE — Two missed three-pointers by the St. Francis High basketball team over the final 10 seconds of the La Cañada High Holiday Tournament championship allowed Hart High to escape with a 57-54 victory and tournament crown on Saturday night at La Cañada High.

The Golden Knights trailed, 57-52, with a minute remaining when junior guard Evan Crawford drained a running jumper with 46 seconds left to bring St. Francis within three points.

A missed jumper from the Indians (9-0), ranked No. 5 in CIF Southern Section Division III-AAA, was followed by a push the other way by St. Francis that resulted first in a missed three-pointer from Kyle Leufroy (13 points) with 9.9 seconds left.

The missed forced St. Francis' Noah Willerford to foul Davis Kopperhaver, who missed the front end of a bonus situation and allowed St. Francis one more opportunity.

That chance was another three-pointer from Leufroy that hit off the front of the rim as time expired.

The defeat was the first of the season for Division III-A fifth-ranked St. Francis (7-1).

Despite the loss, both Crawford and Willerford (14 points) were named to the all-tournament first team, while Hart's Myles Franklin was named tournament MVP.

A 10-point swing in the third quarter proved pivotal for the Indians, who traded a one-point deficit for a nine-point lead after three quarters in outscoring St. Francis, 16-6.

Hart took the first lead of the second half on a three-pointer from Franklin with 5:38 in the quarter and never trailed again.

In fact, the Indians broke a tie at 34 with nine straight points, highlighted on a long rebound off a Leufroy miss by Hart senior forward Stanley Wilder that resulted in a slam dunk with 3:37 remaining and a 43-34 advantage.

The Golden Knights took a 30-29 lead in a first half that included big runs for both sides.

St. Francis appeared primed to run Hart out of the building in the opening minutes of the first half, as the Golden Knights' scored 15 of the game's first 17 points in taking their biggest lead after a free throw from Greg Lupica with 2:48 remaining in the first.

Yet, the Indians responded by scoring the final eight points of the quarter, highlighted by a big confidence-boosting triple from junior Luke Maly with 1:53 remaining, which broke Hart's one-for-11 shooting until that point.

As the Indians closed within three to open the second quarter, St. Francis pushed back and went up, 21-14, after a skying layup from Willerford off an assist from Markar Agakhanian (12 points) with 5:07 left in the half.

Again, though, the Indians surged back with an 11-2 run capped on the second of two steals and coast-to-coast buckets from Hart, this from Franklin with 1:54 left.

The Golden Knights, though, bounced back and took the lead going into the half with a 7-4 run that ended on a jumper from Jake Beck with one second remaining.

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