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St. Francis High boys' basketball holds off La Cañada to reach first championship

Basketball: Golden Knights use pivotal 11-0 run to take lead, defeat Spartans, 56-53, in Division III-A semifinal.

February 28, 2014|By Andrew J. Campa, andrew.campa@latimes.com
  • The St. Francis High boys' basketball team celebrates after beating La Cañada in a CIF-SS Division III-A semifinal game played at Maranatha High in Pasadena on Friday. (Tim Berger/Staff Photographer)
The St. Francis High boys' basketball team celebrates…

PASADENA — At times, it felt like the roof was caving in on the St. Francis High boys’ basketball team.

The visiting Golden Knights trailed for the better part of 2 1/2 quarters versus Foothill Blvd.-rival La Cañada in a city showdown that didn’t just promise the winner bragging rights, but also a berth in the CIF Southern Section Division III-A championship.

PHOTOS: St. Francis' 11-0 run leads to 56-53 victory

Despite trailing by seven points early in the fourth quarter, St. Francis rallied behind an 11-point run and then held on late against the Spartans on a slippery basketball court at neutral Maranatha High for a 56-53 victory in Friday evening’s divisional semifinal contest that clinched the Golden Knights the program’s first-ever championship-game visit.

“It’s huge for this program to get to a championship,” said Golden Knights co-Coach Ray O’Brien, who was hit on the shoulder by a chunk of falling ceiling tile in the second quarter. “We had never even been to the semifinals before, so this is special.

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“We knew this was going to be a tough game and it didn’t help that we kept on slipping on open layups. I don’t know how many times we had easy layups and slipped. That was something else.”

The victory propelled the second-seeded Golden Knights (19-11), a Mission League at-large entry, into the finals next weekend at site to be determined versus fourth-seeded Oak Park (20-10), which defeated top-seeded Santa Barbara, 64-57, on Friday.

Rio Hondo League champion La Cañada, which was hoping to advance to the program’s first championship game since 2011, ended its run with a 23-7 mark.

“It was a great game and both teams had a lot of runs throughout,” Spartans Coach Tom Hofman said. “We had a great year and senior class. It will help our returners next year to bring out their potential.”

St. Francis saw a four-point lead at the three-minute mark in the fourth quarter halved to 55-53 after two free throws from Spartans sophomore guard Ko Ko Kurdoghlian with 1:35 remaining.

Kurdoghlian’s free throws were the first points for the third-seeded Spartans in nearly five minutes and seemed to swing momentum, particularly after the Golden Knights threw away their next offensive possession with a pass out of bounds with 1:18 left.

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