By Michael DUMANSKY
It was clear that the Saint Francis Golden Knights were outsized as soon as the San Gabriel Academy Eagles came onto the basketball court on Friday night. The Eagles, having seven players standing over six feet, presented a clear advantage in the paint. But overcoming their opponents was a task that Saint Francis was determined to conquer and conquer they did ending the night in a 46-38 victory.
“The entire year we’ve been doubted, everyone has been doubting us. Every poll said we would come in last place in the Mission League,” said St. Francis captain Andre Henry. “We had more heart than [they did]; honestly, that’s what it came down to – we wanted it more.”
The Golden Knights jumped out to an early 8-0 lead as senior Kai Glassen aided his team with the first basket of the game then an assist. Late in the first quarter the Eagles forced its way back into the game with a steal and score by senior Ian McCloskey to bring it to 8-4. The first quarter ended in a low scoring affair with both teams putting up a combined 15 points.
Early in the second quarter, senior Golden Knight Jason Gallant extended the lead when he put up five quick points for his Saint Francis. The three pointers kept coming for coach Todd Wolfson’s team as Glassen hit another big three to create an 8-0 run. But the Eagles made their way back to cut the lead to four with the help of guard JT Langston. The Knights, trying to maintain the lead, gave the ball to captain Henry.
He surveyed the court and pulled up beyond the three-point line to nail a big time shot to extend the Saint Francis lead 20-11. The Eagles answered to end the half at 20-16.
The second half was a turning point for San Gabriel Academy as it took command when Langston drove into the lane with an emphatic dunk to tie the game up at 27. It didn’t take long, after a few exchanges in buckets, for Glassen to again hit another key three to put his team up 32-29 with 28 seconds left to play in the third. The Eagles did not go quietly but tightened the game as the Knights took a 32-31 lead going into the fourth.
With only eight minutes left on the clock, each team pressed hard defensively to force turnovers as the sound drew near of the last buzzer of the night. Fortunately the Knights continued passing to their open men with Glassen sinking a game deciding three pointer to put his team up 40-34 with 1:13 left to play.
“We came into the game with a sense of urgency and toughness that they just weren’t ready for,” said Glassen. “That was our game plan and we weren’t going to get outrebounded on the boards. We just stuck to it and it worked out for us.”
The win puts the Golden Knights into the quarterfinals as they face Heritage Christian High School on Tuesday, Feb. 18 at home.