Despite a lackluster start to the second half, in which it trailed by as many as nine points, St. Francis was able to battle back to take a 45-41 lead with just under 3:30 remaining in the game.
But La Cañada, which was led by 16 points apiece from Dario Civon and Mike McGlashan, went on a quick 7-2 run, with all of the points being scored by forward Matt Faber. Faber, who finished with 11 total points and seven rebounds, shook off his defender on an inbounds play to get wide open under the basket for a pass from McGlashan and converted on a layup with 1:00 to go to give the Spartans their first lead, 48-47, since the 5:00 mark.
After a tough fading attempt by Zack Gardea (nine points) rimmed out at the other end, Sean Mintie gave the Spartans a 50-57 lead on a tip in of a missed jumper attempt with 33 seconds left on the clock.
"They have a veteran club, there's a lot of seniors out there, and so that probably showed up at the end of the game," St. Francis co-Coach Ray O'Brien said. "I thought, overall, we played about equal to them and I just think they were a little smarter than us at the end and we've gotta learn from things like that."
From there, the Spartans kept their edge by making free throws before Gardea's uncontested three-pointer at the buzzer made the final score closer than the actual game.
St. Francis, which got a team-high 11 points from Emerson Castaneda, trailed by four at halftime and started the second half with traveling turnovers on its first four possessions inside the first two minutes of play.
La Cañada went up, 38-29, on a layup by Mintie with just over 10:00 to play, but from there the Spartans fell cold from the field and were outscored, 16-3, over the next 6:30.
"When you get a little bit of control and then you let it get away from you because of shot selection, it's a little frustrating, but that's summer," Hofman said.
St. Francis also got nine points from guard Jhamir Jenkins, eight from Evan Crawford and seven from Sevan Zarifian.