LA CAÑADA — A disjointed start led to a long evening for the St. Francis High basketball team.
Looking to begin the Mission League portion of their schedule on the right note, the host Golden Knights couldn’t overcome a sluggish beginning and suffered a 65-36 defeat against Alemany on Wednesday.
Alemany, ranked No. 1 in the CIF Southern Section Division I-A preseason poll, raced out to a 16-2 lead in the first quarter and quieted the home crowd.
“We didn’t come out ready to play,” said St. Francis co-Coach Ray O’Brien, whose team played its first game since topping neighbor La Cañada in the third-place contest of the San Gabriel Valley Classic on Dec. 30. “We had four turnovers on our first five possession and we weren’t mentally set to play.
“We went over everything in practice that Alemany likes to do and then we just blanked tonight.”
The Warriors (11-5) received a game-high 21 points — all on three-pointers — from Gary Chivichyan to turn back the Golden Knights (10-4 and ranked No. 3 in the Division III-A preseason poll) in the first of a pair of head-to-head matchups. The Golden Knights and Warriors will meet again at 7 p.m. Jan. 29 at Alemany.
The Warriors also got 13 points from Brandon Boyd, 11 from Shacquille Dawkins and nine points, nine rebounds and four blocks from Kevin Summers.
O’Brien and the Golden Knights had no answer against Chivichyan, who had four first-half three-pointers.
“You fall behind like that and it set the tone for the rest of the game,” said O’Brien, who, along with Jeff Stephens, guided the Golden Knights to an appearance in the quarterfinals last season. “You’ve got to be ready, especially in the Mission League, or you’ll get a beatdown and we got a beatdown tonight.”
St. Francis received six points apiece from Kyle Leufroy, a reigning All-Area selection, and Noah Willerford. Jake Ruder and Jake Beck added five points apiece for St. Francis.
Willerford said the Golden Knights found themselves up against a monumental task of trying to come back against the Warriors.
“We needed to be able to pick up our intensity on defense and we couldn’t give up any more big runs,” Willerford said. “It’s always tough when you have to come back. We have some things to fix before our next game.”
Chivichyan made a three-pointer to give Alemany a 16-2 advantage with 1:15 left in the first quarter. St. Francis closed to within 22-14 on a layup by Ruder with 5:03 to go in the second quarter. However, the Warriors closed out the first half on a 9-5 run to build a 31-19 halftime lead.
Chivichyan made another three-pointer to make it 45-25 with 3:54 left in the third quarter.
“I don’t know what to attribute to the slow start, but they were the better team,” said O’Brien, whose team will next compete at 7 p.m. Monday in a league contest against host Harvard-Westlake. “There’s a balance between being loose and being too loose, but we have to get right back at it.”