St. Francis just topped in overtime thriller

PASADENA — Oh, the peculiarities of summer-league basketball.

Had Saturday's game between St. Francis and Fairfax at the Maranatha Summer Block Party tournament gone into a fifth overtime, the final frame would have been sudden death.

Unfortunately for the Golden Knights, they never got the opportunity to play golden-goal basketball, as Fairfax defeated St. Francis, 73-71, in a quadruple-overtime thriller.

“Four overtimes is certainly a lot,” said St. Francis co-Coach Ray O'Brien. “It was fun, a good experience for everybody.”

With one second remaining in regulation and down 55-53, St. Francis' Noah Willerford was fouled on a shot when he appeared to be beyond the three-point line, but the official was ruled it a two-point attempt.

“I'm telling you right now, I was at least five feet behind the three-point line,” Willerford said. “My bench can vouch for me.”

Willerford connected on the two foul shots to force overtime with both teams deadlocked at 55.

In the fourth extra frame, Kyle Leufroy knocked down a pair of foul shots with five seconds left to knot the game at 71, and it looked like a fifth overtime was imminent. Fairfax's Sage Woodruff had something to say about that, as he converted a layup as time expired to seal the win.

The Golden Knights had an inauspicious start to the game, committing turnovers on their first three possessions. They still held a 16-13 lead with 6:29 remaining in the first half before the Lions went on a 19-5 run to close out the half with a 32-21 lead.

Things got worse before they got better for St. Francis, falling behind as many as 14 points midway through the second half.

“You can see we're shorthanded,” O'Brien said. “I think what ends up happening is that our best players try to do too much and we see them beginning to force stuff that really isn't there. They did a better job in the overtimes of playing more as a team, but early on when we were losing I felt Noah and Kyle were trying to do too much one-on-one.”

Behind the play of Leufroy and Willerford, the Golden Knights battled back. Willerford knocked down a three-pointer with just under a minute left in regulation to level the game at 53, then came through with his clutch foul shooting.

“We're missing a bunch of guys,” Willerford said. “Our chemistry is a little bit off. Once we got into the flow of it… we were running our offense well. We were getting open shots. That's all you can hope for, is run your plays correctly and get open shots.”

Willerford finished with 27 points and Leufroy added 25 — all but four of those points coming in the second half and beyond.

St. Francis finished the tournament at 1-3. O'Brien said that it was good to get some guys who otherwise wouldn't see the court some playing time.

Willerford also felt it was good preparation for when the games count.

“We're definitely trying to push the ball, playing as if we're going to be playing in Mission League because that’s what we've got to prepare for,” Willerford said. “We treat every game like it means something.”

Copyright © 2019, Glendale News-Press
EDITION: California | U.S. & World