LA CAÑADA — On the verge of the halfway point in the competitive Mission League, the St. Francis High basketball team sought a trademark league victory.
Backed by a tenacious defensive effort in the second half and some late clutch shooting from its top player, the Golden Knights accomplished that rousing feat Monday.
Kyle Leufroy finished with 19 points and St. Francis yielded just 14 second-half points en route to a 54-46 Mission League home victory against Chaminade, ranked No. 1 in the latest CIF Southern Section Division III-A poll and 10th in the state by Cal-Hi Sports.
“We watched a ton of film on them and they have some great players,” said St. Francis co-Coach Ray O’Brien, whose team improved to 14-6, 3-3 in league and is ranked fourth in the division. “It’s definitely our biggest win of the season, let alone in league.
“We kept up our defensive intensity throughout the second half and we also did a better job on the boards. It’s a great victory that they worked so hard to get.”
Leufroy, a junior guard and a reigning All-Area honoree, paved the way for the Golden Knights in the fourth quarter. He finished with seven points in the final quarter to tame the Eagles (16-3, 4-2).
Leufroy made a big three-pointer with 1:41 remaining to give the Golden Knights a 47-41 advantage. He then made four free throws in the final 27.3 seconds to put the finishing touches on the victory.
“It’s a great win for us, but we know we can’t let down,” Leufroy said. “On the three-pointer, I saw the shot clock winding down and had to get a good shot off.
“We didn’t play too well in the first half. In the second half, we were able to get to a lot of loose balls and we made some real big shots.”
St. Francis, which improved to 4-1 in its last five contests, received 18 points from senior forward Noah Willerford and eight from junior guard Michael Allen. Allen scored on a layup off a nice pass from Leufroy to give the Golden Knights a 42-38 lead with 3:58 left.
Willerford scored the first nine points of the game for the Golden Knights, who advanced to the quarterfinals last season. Willerford’s first two baskets were three-pointers to help cut into an early 14-6 lead by Chaminade.
“I’ve been shooting well of late and feel like I’m on a hot streak,” Willerford said. “We have also been playing much better defensively because that’s how you have to win, especially in our league.
“We feel good about this win. We also know that we can do a lot better.”
Chaminade, which held a 32-26 halftime lead, received a game-high 24 points and 12 rebounds from sophomore forward Jack Williams. The Golden Knights limited the talented Williams to eight second-half points. Chaminade mustered only four third-quarter points.
The Golden Knights and Eagles will meet again Feb. 12 at Chaminade.