Second-seeded St. Francis High basketball survives in overtime

After struggling throughout most of the second half of Mission League play, the St. Francis High basketball team entered the CIF Southern Section Division III-A playoffs looking to clean things up and get back on track.

The Golden Knights, who received the second seed in the division after receiving an at-large berth, came into Wednesday’s first-round contest against Yucca Valley in the midst of a four-game losing streak.

St. Francis received a huge effort from Kyle Leufroy and overcame 19 turnovers to post a 63-59 overtime victory.

St. Francis (16-11) will meet San Dimas in a second-round road contest at 7 p.m. Friday.

“It was one of our worst games of the season,” said St. Francis co-Coach Ray O’Brien, who got 27 points and eight rebounds from Leufroy and 10 points, 15 rebounds and five assists from Evan Crawford. “We had 19 turnovers, including 12 in the second half and Yucca Valley didn’t pressure us much.

“We must have been nervous and it was a long trip down here.”

Leufroy, a reigning All-Area selection, had four points in the four-minute overtime session. Leufroy tied it at 57 on a basket with 15 seconds left . The teams were deadlocked at 57at the end of regulation.

Leufroy made two shots in overtime and help the Golden Knights, who traveled nearly 140 miles, avoid a huge upset against Yucca Valley (12-9).

“It was basically anybody’s game the entire way,” said O’Brien, whose team tied for fifth in league with Harvard-Westlake at 4-8. “Kyle started to take it to the rim in the fourth quarter and the overtime off the transition. He was at his best when we needed him.”

After Yucca Valley, which finished second in the De Anza League, took a 59-57 lead in overtime, Leufroy scored on the next possession to make it 59-59. Crawford then scored a basket to give the Golden Knights a 61-59 lead before Leufroy closed out the scoring.

“Evan stepped it up for us, especially on the boards,” said O’Brien, who got 18 points and eight rebounds from Noah Willerford. “Yucca Valley was certainly underrated and they came together toward the end of the year after having some injuries.

“I don’t think we were prepared after playing six weeks worth of Mission League games.”

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