By Michael BRUER
The Martin Luther King Jr. holiday proved to be favorable for the St. Francis Golden Knights as they edged out the feisty Campbell Hall Vikings 66-61 in overtime on Monday at La Salle High School in Pasadena. The team was supreme from long range, knocking down 11 shots from behind the arc in a game that had a little bit of everything. As a unit, the Knights appeared to rally well following a crushing defeat to their rival Loyola just three days earlier.
There were multiple lead changes throughout in a game that also featured double technical fouls and a spirited interchange between the two head coaches during an officials’ timeout. Junior guard Kyle Leufroy carried St. Francis through the first half, scoring 17 of his team’s 37 points en route to 24 points in the game.
“Kyle carried us in the first half,” said co-coach Ray O’Brien. “He is still a junior and has a lot to learn. He has unbelievable natural instincts … if he works on little things, he has the potential to be the best player to walk out of Saint Francis High School.”
One particularly exciting series of events featured Leufroy nailing a 3-pointer and stealing the ball on the ensuing Viking possession before laying it in at the other end.
St. Francis (12-6, 1-3 in the Mission League) had trouble with the speedy play of the Vikings, especially in the first half as they racked up seven team fouls in the first quarter alone. O’Brien explained that type of play is to be expected. “It’s a physical game, we’re a physical team,” O’Brien said. “That being said, we are used to playing teams as good as Campbell Hall. We knew it was going to be close.”
Junior guard and co-captain Aaron Holiday of Campbell Hall kept the Knights at bay throughout the game, knocking down clutch baskets and securing trips to the free throw line in crucial situations. He had a game-high 25 points and found himself in the middle of a tense situation with two minutes to play in the third quarter.
On an aggressive drive to the basket he was fouled by sophomore guard Dylan Crawford, who gave an extra push for good measure. The two stepped towards each other before being separated by officials. The referees assessed offsetting technical fouls to Crawford and junior guard Kahlil Simplis of Campbell, and proceeded to explain the calls to the respective head coaches.
The frustration emanating from the St. Francis end could be explained by the 8-0 run engineered by the opposing Vikings, who opened the second half trailing by three points and quickly found themselves in the lead. The Golden Knights meanwhile kept missing shots and committing turnovers. But the dramatic events of the third quarter seemed to spur the team in the fourth, as they rallied back to force the game into OT.
Senior guard/forward Evan Crawford made his presence known on occasion in the final quarter, nailing a couple of 3-pointers on his way to 15 points. He also contributed seven assists in the contest.
With the score deadlocked at 58, senior guard/forward Noah Willerford stepped up in a big way, knocking down two 3-pointers from the top of the key to secure the victory.
O’Brien summed up the win: “It’s a confidence builder. For us, playing in a tough league you have to win some tough games to believe in yourself. Hopefully this a springboard for us to be even tougher in league play.”
The Golden Knights host Notre Dame Friday at 7 p.m.