Saturday night’s Central Coast Section Open Division final proved to be the closest the St. Francis High girls basketball team has come to beating mighty Mitty in their four meetings this season. But the Lancers had plenty of opportunities to make it closer than 41-32.
On a night when all but one Mitty player struggled to score, St. Francis missed shot after shot at Santa Clara University’s Leavey Center. While many of those attempts were from 3-point range, the Lancers failed to convert several shots in the paint as well.
“You’ve got to finish at the rim. I thought we had a few looks there – the first half especially,” St. Francis coach Brian Harrigan said. “In big games, you’ve got to put those away; you’re not going to get too many of them against a good team.”
The fifth-seeded Lancers (21-8) couldn’t have gotten off to a much slower start against the No. 2 Monarchs (24-6). St. Francis trailed 18-13 at halftime after missing 14 of 18 shots from the field. Mitty junior Kelli Hayes’ matched the Lancers’ first-half total. The dynamic guard scored the Monarchs’ first nine points and finished with 24.
Forward Jennifer Lucian led St. Francis with 13 points, only three of which came in the opening half. The senior swished a 3-pointer from the top of the key to beat the first-quarter buzzer, cutting the Lancers’ deficit to 9-7.
St. Francis endured another seven-point quarter in the third, which Hayes matched once again. Yet the Lancers managed to close the gap to 25-20 with 2:40 left in the period on a pair of free throws from Lucian.
The Monarchs scored the final three points of the quarter and extended their advantage to 30-20 early in the fourth.
The Lancers had one more run in them, fueled by back-to-back drives by Lucian that made it a 37-31 game with 1:34 left. That’s as close as St. Francis would get.
Hayes and NiaJai Craig made foul shots for Mitty in the final minute, while St. Francis converted one free throw and missed three field-goal attempts.
“I thought our defense was pretty good on the whole, but you’ve got to score,” Harrigan said.
Lucian was the lone Lancers to score double-digit points. Shelbi Aimonetti contributed nine points, while Lauren Johnson and Kate Hoey had five each.
St. Francis has qualified for the Northern California Division II playoffs and is scheduled to host Chico (14-6) or Dublin (20-9) 7 p.m. Saturday in the quarterfinals.