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Knights come up short in fourth

Basketball: St. Francis High loses second-round playoff game to Covina with Emerson Castaneda out with injury.

February 17, 2012|By Gabriel Rizk, gabriel.rizk@latimes.com

LA CAÑADA FLINTRIDGE — With both teams still stuck in the 20s by the end of the third quarter, offense was at a premium when the St. Francis High boys' basketball team hosted Covina in the second round of the CIF Southern Section Division 3A playoffs Friday night.

It was an inopportune time for the Golden Knights to be without the services of their top scorer, senior guard Emerson Castaneda, who was out with a severe meniscus sprain, according to co-Coach Ray O'Brien.

St. Francis' other players provided enough offense and defense, as well, to keep the game neck and neck nearly all night. But the Golden Knights missed Castaneda's presence when their other go-to scorer, senior guard Zack Gardea, was well-covered down the stretch of the fourth quarter, where St. Francis battled unsuccessfully to come from behind en route to a 50-41 loss.

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"We knew we had to stay close the whole way," said O'Brien, whose team trailed by one after three quarters, but fell behind by seven points with 2:46 to play in the fourth. "We knew if they separated from us then it was going to be difficult because the one thing we didn't have was three-point shooting. With Emerson out, we knew it was going to be a game where we had to keep them under 50 to win."

Senior forward Tei Vanderford stepped up for St. Francis with 13 points and five rebounds, while Gardea scored 11 points and sophomore Noah Willerford and freshman Michael Allen chipped in seven and six, respectively.

"We battled the whole game, we competed the whole game," said Vanderford, who knocked down a short pull-up jumper in traffic with 1:42 left to pull the Golden Knights to within 41-38, the closest they would come. "All of the bounces didn't go our way, it seemed like, and we were battling without our best player and the leader of our team.

"We just feel bad that we couldn't pull this one out."

Covina was led by 13 points, 12 rebounds and three blocks from 6-foot-7 senior center Edgardo Campos, who spent most of every Colts possession camped out on the perimeter.

In the second half, it became clear why, as Campos hit the two biggest shots of the game — a three-pointer from the right side with 4:30 left in the fourth to give Covina its biggest lead of the night to that point, 38-32, and another triple from the right corner three minutes later. The second was a back breaker, as it gave the Colts a 44-38 lead with 1:30 to play and St. Francis would never get closer the rest of the way.

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