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Latest fourth-quarter rally falls short for St. Francis High basketball

Basketball: Golden Knights' ability to rally in final period shows in furious comeback, but ends in loss.

March 07, 2014|By Charles Rich, charles.rich@latimes.com
  • St. Francis High's Markar Agakanian walks off the court after the Golden Knights' 60-53 loss in the CIF Southern Section Division III-A basketball championship game versus Oak Park High at Azusa Pacific University's Felix Event Center on Friday. (Raul Roa/Staff Photographer)
St. Francis High's Markar Agakanian walks off the…

AZUSA — During part of its historic playoff run, the St. Francis High basketball team had some incredible fourth-quarter rallies to land a spot in the CIF Southern Section Division III-A championship game.

It started with an opening-round overtime win against Yucca Valley before coming back late to defeat neighbor and third-seeded La Cañada in the semifinals.

On Friday night in the title game against Oak Park at Azusa Pacific University's Felix Event Center, St. Francis found itself in yet another comeback mode, rallying from a five-point deficit in the final minute before seeing its bid for the program's first CIF title cut short in a 60-53 defeat.

Fourth quarters had belonged to the upstart and second-seeded Golden Knights (21-10) until fourth-seeded Oak Park warded them off en route to capturing the program's first CIF crown after a pair of runner-up finishes.

“You assume we are dead and then we find a way to rise and make a comeback,” said St. Francis co-Coach Ray O'Brien, whose team earned an at-large entry after finishing tied for fifth with Harvard-Westlake in the rugged Mission League. “We are down five at 53-48 and we find a way to get back in it right away.

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“We've come back before, but you have to give Oak Park credit for making some outside shots. We got a taste of playing in a championship game and it's something our guys won't soon forget.”

Oak Park, which finished tied for second with Bishop Diego in the Tri-Valley League, saw St. Francis get a layup from Dylan Crawford to bring the Golden Knights to within 53-50 with 31 seconds left in regulation. St. Francis' Kyle Leufroy, a reigning All-Area pick, then stole the inbound pass near mid-court, took a couple of dribbles and was fouled on a three-point shot attempt.

Bedlam erupted in the St. Francis fan section and Leufroy, who finished with a game-high 26 points, calmly made all three free throws to knot it at 53 with 27.5 seconds remaining.

Unfortunately for the Golden Knights, that would be all, as the Eagles made seven of eight free throws the remainder of the way to clinch the championship.

“We felt like we could do it again,” said Leufroy, who hobbled on a gimpy right ankle after he sustained an injury early in the first quarter. “We just came up short.

“It's tough right now. It wasn't one of our best games.”

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