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Lancers fall to Falcons in NorCal semis

Photo By: Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Photo Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier St. Francis High’s Khalil Johnson lays up a shot against College Park last week. The senior scored 20 points in the loss.

Fans of the St. Francis High boys basketball team left last week’s playoff game disappointed, but not without being entertained.

College Park edged the host Lancers 85-82 in a Northern California Division II semifinal played at the pace of a video game.

The teams, which combined for a whopping 57 points in the sizzling second quarter, gave the enthusiastic, near-capacity crowd plenty to cheer wildly about March 12. Tenth-seeded St. Francis (14-17) scored more points than it had in any game this season, but No. 11 College Park (26-5) of Pleasant Hill did just enough to overcome that by making pivotal plays when it mattered most.

“We shot the ball extremely well and it seems like on any other night we would have won by 20 with that kind of scoring,” St. Francis guard Nicholas Keyes said. “But they shot equally as well, if not better, and we could have just as easily lost by 20. But we didn’t – we stuck with them the whole time.”

The back-and-forth, up-and down contest featured 11 lead changes, six ties and a bevy of big shots – from dazzling drives to game-turning 3s.

“It was exciting and fun to watch,” St. Francis coach Mike Motil said. “Both teams had a hard time defending each other and both teams made a lot of shots.”

The Lancers shot 48 percent from the field – just 1 percent lower than the Falcons – and set a season high for 3-pointers.

“If you would have told us we would make 17 3s and lose, I would have told you, ‘No way,’” Motil said.

St. Francis opened the fourth quarter with a top-of-the-key 3 by forward Mike Lauck that put his team ahead 64-62. At the five-minute mark, the Lancers matched their biggest lead of the night, 74-68, on a drive by Keyes.

College Park scored eight of the next nine points, however, going ahead on guard Mikey Eggleton’s 3. The Lancers tied it at 76 on a free throw from guard Khalil Johnson, who scored 12 of his team-high 20 points in the fourth, but they failed to recapture the lead over the final 3:18.

It didn’t help that St. Francis played most of the fourth quarter without Khalil’s twin brother, Khalid. The standout point guard aggravated a nagging ankle injury two minutes into the period and didn’t return until 1:22 remained.

“We hung in there without our leader for the last five minutes of the fourth quarter,” Motil said. “Our kids did a really good job.”

Thirty-four seconds before Khalid removed the ice pack from his ankle and returned to the game, Khalil drilled a falling-back 3 that cut the Falcons’ lead to 81-79. But the Lancers’ next two possessions ended badly (turnover and air ball) and College Park extended its advantage on a dagger 3 by guard Seb Flores, who just beat the shot clock.

“We had opportunities,” Motil said. “We just didn’t convert, and they did.”

Down 84-79 with 15 seconds to play, St. Francis missed another 3-point attempt. College Park grabbed the rebound, leaving the Lancers no choice but to foul to stop the clock. Eggleton made one free throw for the last of his game-high 24 points.

Khaild buried a 3 in the final second to finish with 11 points. Guard Brycen Carbonel also scored 11 points for St. Francis – eight of them in the first quarter – and Lauck totaled 19.

The season didn’t end the way the Lancers had hoped, but Keyes said he’s proud of what they accomplished. After a rough start and a second-to-last-finish in the West Catholic Athletic League, St. Francis won the Central Coast Section Division II title and came within one win of the NorCal final.

“I had a great time with my teammates this year, and although it was a tough season at times, we all really turned it into one of the best seasons I could ever ask for,” he said.

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