LA CAÑADA — In between taking part in its second and third tournaments of the month, the St. Francis High basketball team used Monday’s nonleague contest against Hart as a measuring stick to see how it might match up against teams in the Mission League.
For three quarters, the Golden Knights achieved quite a bit of success. The fourth quarter proved to be a vastly different story.
Fresh off capturing the La Cañada High Holiday Classic, a fatigued St. Francis mustered just six fourth-quarter points en route to a 63-54 home defeat against Hart.
The Golden Knights, ranked No. 3 in the CIF Southern Section Division III-A preseason poll, got a game-high 25 points and seven rebounds from Kyle Leufroy. They saw their six-game winning streak conclude to dip to 7-2. Hart, second in the Division II-A preseason poll, won its seventh contest in a row to improve to 7-1.
St. Francis was besieged by foul trouble, beginning late in the third quarter. Noah Willerford had four personal fouls and Michael Allen fouled out late in the fourth quarter.
“A couple of things happened,” said St. Francis co-Coach Ray O’Brien, whose team was deadlocked at 48 through three quarters. “One, Kyle was so good during the first three quarters and Hart adjusted defensively to take him out of it because he had been on a roll.
“Secondly, we started to get into some foul trouble and I think we became worn down. We went hard from beginning to end, but we just came up short in the fourth quarter.”
Hart, playing its first game since defeating Crescenta Valley in the championship contest of the Falcon Classic on Dec. 13, received 21 points from standout guard Lewis Stallworth and 12 from Andrew MacArthur.
The Golden Knights, who advanced to the quarterfinals last season, took a 48-45 lead on a three-pointer by John Carroll (12 points) with 22 seconds left in the third quarter. However, Hart’s Chase White responded with a three-pointer with one-tenth of a second left in the quarter to knot it at 48.
Hart grabbed the momentum in the fourth quarter, beginning with an 8-0 run. The Indians took a 56-48 advantage on a pair of free throws by Davis Koppenhaver with 5:11 to go.
Leufroy, who had 12 second-half points, said the Golden Knights couldn’t contain the Indians in the final quarter.
“We got into foul trouble and we were losing bodies for some time,” said Leufroy, a junior guard who earned a spot on the All-Area second team last season after averaging 18.1 points per game and picking up All-Mission League first-team accolades. “We needed to keep making baskets and stop fouling.
“I need to do a better job in the fourth quarter. We played pretty hard. A game like this gives us a chance to see how we can fare against a good team.”
St. Francis trailed at halftime, 31-30. Leufroy had eight first-quarter points to give the Golden Knights a 15-12 lead.
“This was the best team we’ve seen so far this season,” said O’Brien, whose team posted a 47-45 victory against Mark Keppel in the title game of the La Cañada Holiday Tournament at La Cañada High. “We had been looking forward to this game and we’ll see what we can take from it.”
St. Francis will next compete at 7:30 p.m. Thursday versus L.A. Franklin in the opening round of the 16-team San Gabriel Valley Classic at Monrovia High.