Photo By: Town Crier file photo
St. Francis High’s Nicholas Keyes, laying up a shot in the CCS playoffs, scored 17 points in the NorCal quarterfinals.
St. Francis High guard Nicholas Keyes said the announcement of his team’s 13-16 record during pregame introductions drew laughs from the boisterous student section at Antelope High. But they weren’t laughing at the end of Saturday’s Northern California Division II boys basketball quarterfinal.
The 10th-seeded Lancers edged the No. 2 Titans 61-59, stunning a gym filled with fans wearing scarlet.
“There was a sea of red in the crowd – and it was packed – and we felt like we were the only ones in there who believed we were going to win that game,” said Keyes, who scored a team-high 17 points. “But we didn’t care what everyone else said.”
St. Francis jumped to an 11-point lead by halftime and withstood a third-quarter surge by Antelope (25-7) of Sacramento County. The Titans scored eight straight points in the period to cut the Lancers’ advantage to three, but Keyes answered with a 3-pointer. Antelope soon tied the game, and Keyes responded by making another long-range jumper. St. Francis never lost the lead.
“When they got close, we’d made a big shot,” said Keyes, who made five treys Saturday. “It was a pretty cool feeling to silence them with a 3 after they tied it.”
The Lancers refused to let the Titans’ superior size and ample athleticism beat them.
“We knew they were bigger than us and like to get to the basket,” Keyes said, “so we challenged them to shoot jumpers, and we boxed out to get rebounds.”
And on offense, St. Francis continued to play the way it has throughout the playoffs.
“We played up-tempo and made our shots,” Keyes said.
The Lancers buried nine 3-pointers in the contest. Senior Khalid Johnson made two of them and finished with 14 points. The point guard totaled 10 assists and came just a few rebounds shy of a triple-double.
“I have to give Khalid all the credit in the world – he led us,” Keyes said. “He played great.”
Senior Mike Lauck added eight points, as did fellow forward Alex Frazier, a junior.
St. Francis (14-16) was slated to host No. 11 College Park (24-5) Tuesday in the semifinals, played after the Town Crier’s press deadline. The winner advances to the NorCal Division II final, scheduled noon Saturday at Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento.