Old foe shoots down St. Francis basketball

LA CANADA — St. Francis High basketball co-Coach Ray O'Brien told Chaminade senior Jaron Martin that he'd miss him after Wednesday's Mission League finale.

O'Brien was probably lying.

The Golden Knights have respect for Martin, but they're glad that they likely won't have to face the 5-foot-9 guard again.

In his last league meeting against St. Francis, Martin hit eight three-pointers and scored a game-high 33 points, on just 13 shots, to lead Chaminade to a 67-51 road victory.

“Jaron Martin has been around for four years,” O'Brien said. “He's a great player. He got hot and we let him get hot. When you catch him on a day when he gets hot, he's got everything. He can shoot with his left. He can shoot with his right. He can drive to the basket. I've seen him do it for a long time.”

O'Brien saw Martin get off to a strong start.

Martin made five of his six shots in the first quarter, scoring all of his team's 13 points. By halftime, Martin had 22 points and St. Francis had 21.

“When he starts scoring early, it relaxes everybody else,” Chaminade Coach Todd Wolfson said of Martin, who became the school's all-time leading scorer.

“The kid has been great for four years. I hope some colleges start to notice that.”

With St. Francis sending double teams toward Martin in the second half, the speedy guard found his teammates for open shots. Chaminade (20-7, 8-4 in league) was 20 of 42 (47.6%) from the field. St. Francis was 20 of 56 (35.7%).

Chaminade, ranked third in CIF Southern Section Division 3A, built a 13-point lead in the third quarter that St. Francis, ranked seventh in the division, trimmed to seven at the end of the period. The Golden Knights were led by sophomore Kyle Leufroy and junior Noah Willerford, who had 22 and 13 points, respectively.

But the Golden Knights (14-13, 4-8) didn't hit enough shots, as they were nine of 27 (33.3%) from three-point territory.

“There's games of runs,” O'Brien said. “We did pull close, but they hit a couple of more shots. If we could've left it close, then the pressure goes on them because they are the favorites. We weren't able to get the lead under 10 in the fourth.”

St. Francis finished the regular season fifth in league play, a spot out of an automatic playoff berth. The league featured four teams — out of seven — ranked in the top eight in their respective divisions.

Despite finishing fifth, O'Brien expects his team to earn an at-large berth when the postseason brackets are released at 1 p.m. Sunday.

Said O'Brien: “There's no way we're not going to get an at-large berth.”

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