By Stephen Ramirez
@SteveRRamirez on Twitter
RANCHO SANTA MARGARITA – St. Francis High School’s best season ever is over, but the Golden Knights proved to be a tough out Saturday night.
Devonte Klines scored 22 points and Joe Furstinger had 19 and host Santa Margarita rallied for a 74-66 victory over St. Francis in a CIF State Southern California Regional Division III second-round boys basketball game.
Santa Margarita, also getting 10 points from Scott Wieserski, improved to 25-8 and will travel to Cathedral, an 82-52 winner over La Mirada in the regional semifinals on Tuesday.
St. Francis, which previously had never advanced to the CIF-Southern Section semifinals, finished 20-13, with a trip to the divisional finals and the state playoffs. Kyle Leufroy and Evan Crawford led the Golden Knights with 20 and 19 points, respectively.
For a while, it looked like the Golden Knights’ dream season might continue. They opened the second half with a 16-7 surge for a 54-48 lead late in the third quarter, and took a 55-52 advantage into the fourth. But eventually Santa Margarita’s size advantage, which features four players 6-foot-6 or higher, including Furstinger at 6-8, took it’s toll.
Wieserski made it 55-54 with two free throws at 7:47 before Klines hit a 3-pointer for a 57-55 lead 6:46, St. Francis’ Markar Agakanian made a layup to tie it before Santa Margarita put together a quick 7-0 blitz off turnovers and missed shots to go up 64-57 at 4:48 following a Furstinger putback, a 3-pointer by Yifan Shou and a fastbreak layup by Wieserski.
Wieserski and Furstinger made inside shots to push it to 70-59 with 2:23 left to all but clinch it. Crawford hit a 3-pointer to make it 72-66 with 37 seconds left, but Klines countered with a quick layup for a 74-66 lead with 29 seconds to play.
St. Francis co-head coach Ray O’Brien: “It was a great year. You saw the effort these kids putout tonight. We ended up coming up short in total points, but we probably played one of our best games of the year against a (CIF-SS) champion. They had a size advantage, but it didn’t kill us because of the effort these kids had and it was the same effort we’ve had all year. That’s why they have 20 wins, because of the effort they put out.”