In an otherwise tight battle, a late third-quarter dry spell and an inopportune technical foul call late in the fourth spelled defeat for the Start Spartans against St. Francis de Sales Friday night in a 56-54 loss in a Division I boys sectional basketball semifinal at Waite.
"We got off to a bad start in the second half, and that put us in a bit of a hole, and it was tough for us to get back after that," Start coach Ted Pasqualone said.
Tied at 30 after a tip-in by Start's Anthony Henderson, the City League's player of the year, St. Francis (14-7) began a pivotal 10-3 run that netted a 40-33 lead on two Greg Fockler free throws 1:56 into the final quarter.
The Knights increased the lead to 44-35 on a bucket from 6-11 center Storm Stanley with
4:51 left, but the Spartans (11-10) surged within striking distance with 1:54 to play.
But, right after 5-6 sophomore guard DeMond Crisp made his biggest play of the game, nailing a 3-pointer from the left corner to get Start within 50-46, he made his biggest mistake.
Frustrated with a foul call after attempting a steal on the inbounds play, Crisp displayed frustration as he jogged away from the play. He was hit with a technical foul, and Knights guard Brandon Focht sank three of the four free throws to push St. Francis further ahead 53-46.
"DeMond didn't say anything to [the official]," Pasqualone said. "He just ran to the middle of the floor and he teed him up. I don't understand that. Because he shows emotion? "I could see if DeMond disrespected the guy, but he didn't. I don't get it."
As it turned out, the cushion was enough to send the Knights to Thursday's district semifinal against rival St. John's Jesuit (16-4).
Focht led the Knights with 17 points, including a 9-for-10 effort from the foul line, part of St. Francis' 19-of-22 free-throw shooting.
"It was tough," Focht said. "They forced a couple turnovers at the end and we really needed to knock some free throws down. "We needed to focus at the free-throw line and that's what got us the win."
Stanley had 12 points and eight rebounds, senior Kent Goldsmith added 10 points, and Fockler had eight points and five boards.
"Anthony Henderson was pretty quiet at the beginning of the fourth quarter, and fairly quiet for the whole game," Knights coach Nick Lowe said. "When we got the nine-point lead he decided - he's senior, he's the player of the year in our city and our district - he was going to try to take over.
"He made some great plays and tough shots, and I wouldn't expect anything else from him."
The loss meant the end of the high school basketball road for Henderson, who closed his career with 19 points and his second CL scoring title. Averaging 27.7 points per game this season, he finished as Start's career scoring leader at 1,350 points.
"I had a great career points-wise but not wins-wise," Henderson said. "That's really what matters."
Crisp added 10 points for the Spartans, and junior Jeff Copeland had nine.
St. Francis was 17-of-37 from the field, out-rebounded Start 27-18, and committed 13 turnovers. The Spartans were 22-of-48 from the field, 7-of-8 from the line, and had nine turnovers.
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