Saint Francis’ return to glory halted in NorCal final
By: DENNIS KNIGHT, BAY AREA NEWS GROUP
Posted March 15
SACRAMENTO — St. Francis was hoping its pinpoint perimeter shooting would help negate Rocklin’s obvious size advantage in the NorCal Div. II final Saturday at ARCO Arena.
But the shots weren’t dropping like they had the entire season, and despite a spirited fourthquarter comeback the Mountain View school saw its season end in a 70-65 loss.
Rocklin (33-2) advances to the first state final in school history. The Thunder will try to avenge one of its two losses when Eisenhower- Rialto travels north to the same venue for Friday’s final.The Thunder was led by 6-10 senior center Brendan Lane, who is headed to UCLA on a basketball scholarship. Lane had 17 points, 15 rebounds and four blocked shots.
“We hadn’t played a team that big all season, but I thought we had a lot of opportunities,” said first-year Lancers coach Mike Motil. “We had good looks, and we’ve made a lot of those this year.”
St. Francis trailed 34-31 at halftime before being outscored 20-13 in the third quarter.
The Lancers were 26 of 76 from the field (34 percent). Rocklin was 29 of 53 from the field (55 percent).St. Francis (30-3) took a slight detour on the way to ARCO Arena. Without telling his players, Motil arranged for a shootaround at Oakland’s Oracle Arena with the help of the father of Lancers player Pat Crowley. Michael Crowley, the A’s president, helped set up the practice.
“We were wondering why we were headed up 880 to go to Sacramento, then the bus pulls into Oracle. That was pretty cool,” said Lancers senior Tyler Johnson, who had 13 points and 10 rebounds.
Shooting at an NBA arena is much different than at a high school gym. Shooters are sometimes confused when they come to ARCO and see fans and endless seats behind the baskets.“It definitely helped us get used to the depth perception,” said Johnson, who connected on three of six 3-point attempts.
Rocklin was focused on trying to slow Lancers senior Shawn Grant, who was recently offered a scholarship to Toledo. He is also considering the University of Alabama at Birmingham and Howard University.The 6-3 forward may be viewed as a tweener by college coaches because of his size. But his basketball IQ, strength and versatile game have been vital in the Lancers’ turnaround from a 15-14 season to a berth in the NorCal final.
“We knew we had to guard him,” Rocklin coach Steve Taylor said. “What makes him special is he can do more than one thing. He can drive to the basket, shoot and he plays hard on both ends of the court.”
Grant led the Lancers with 24 points and had nine rebounds.
“To come here from where we had been in the last two years, this was a once-in-alifetime opportunity,” Grant said. “We tried to contrast their height with our speed and fitness. ... We played well, but sometimes you come up short.”Trailing 68-53 with about three minutes left, the Lancers went on a 12-2 run to close the game. Kyle Hypes (nine points) started things with an acrobatic layup, and Grant followed with a jumper and a layup. Lasjohn Johnson scored on a drive to the hoop and the 6-1 Hypes took the ball aggressively right past the 6-10 Lane to make it 70-63 with 1:55 left. But despite getting second chances on their next two times up court, the Lancers couldn’t convert on four straight possessions.
Rocklin, which is just east of Sacramento, had a big student cheering section waving thunder sticks behind the basket when the Lancers attempted free throws. St. Francis brought an intelligent and funny rooting section of its own. Every time the future Bruin Lane stepped to the free throw line, St. Francis students chanted “USC, USC.” When the Rocklin students started yelling “We can’t hear you!” the Lancer crowd responded with “Where is Rocklin?”
“I guess we put Rocklin on the map now,” said Thunder senior Pat Stover, who had 15 points and 10 rebounds.
ST. FRANCIS BASKETBALL GAME NOTES
THE 210’S: The Rocklin front line included three 210pounders of different variations. Brendan Lane is an athletic 6-10, Danish exchange student Mads Frandsen is 6-8 and forward Pat Stover is a muscular 6-5.
SF ROOTING FOR THE CARDINAL AND GOLD: With Rocklin star Brendan Lane, a UCLA signee, at the free throw line facing the Lancers’ student section, the SFHS students broke out into a “USC, USC” cheer. When asked about that afterward, Lane smiled and said, “Yeah, I heard that.” He made both free throws anyway.
RAGE CAGE: Nearby Rocklin brought about three times as many students but the Lancers’ rooting section was equally loud and had more well-organized cheers, even without a formal group of cheerleaders (which Rocklin had).
WHAT IS THE SCORE, ANYWAY? Rocklin appeared to have the game in hand late but St. Francis ran off 10 straight to close within five. St. Francis coach Mike Motil was asked about the Lancers hanging in there when the score appeared insurmountable. He said, “I didn’t even know the score most of the way. The scoreboard is in an awkward place to see. We just kept playing. I imagine the guys weren’t looking at the score either. We played with a sense of urgency and got within five and had opportunities even then.”
SHAWN GRANT: The West Catholic Athletic League coMVP scored 17 of the Lancers’ 34 second-half points.
COLD OUTSIDE: Motil did not think the Rocklin height hindered the Lancers’ shooting. “We had open looks,” he said. “We just missed some shots we have made all year.” Motil added that the Rocklin tall timber did keep the Lancers from getting as many offensive rebounds as they have grabbed at other times this year.
THAT’S NOT LEGAL: In the second half, Rocklin coach
Steve Taylor called out to one of his players, “If it goes to 24
( Tyler Johnson), just hug him.” After the game, Taylor added, “I told my guys to extend the defense to the 3-point line. But not the NBA 3-point line! He (Johnson) was making them beyond the NBA line.”