St. Francis still alive, opens NorCal tonight

So who had St. Francis as the last remaining boys basketball team to be playing in Santa Cruz County?

The Sharks finished fourth in the Santa Cruz Coast Athletic League this season. Yet, here they are competing in the CIF NorCal state tournament.

St. Francis will host Durham tonight at 7 p.m. The winner gets a date on Saturday with St. Joseph Notre Dame of Alameda — the top-seeded team in Division V.

Kudos to the Sharks for reaching this point, though. I figured Aptos, which seemed to be playing the best basketball coming out of the regular season/SCCAL Tournament, was the team with the greatest chance of reaching NorCal. But St. Francis, I feel, has upped its game in each round.

The turning point came against Woodside Priory, which had twin towers in Gabor Somogyi (6-foot-9) and Andy Iskopehi (6-foot-6). But that game turned into a bit of a rout — a 63-42 victory for the Sharks. It was also a bit of revenge for St. Francis, which was bounced from the CCS playoffs in the semifinal round by Priory in 2009 — one round shy of reaching the finals and a trip to NorCals.

St. Francis’ game against Pinewood was a true test. Pinewood was the better team, but the Sharks adjusted enough and hung around long enough to keep the game interesting up until midway through the fourth quarter. They somehow withstood Pinewood’s better rebounding on the glass and the 17-point outburst in the first quarter by Kevin Sweat to trail by just seven points at halftime.

It will be interesting to see how this all carries over to NorCal, where there is a bit of the unknown in your opponent. St. Francis’ ability to adjust on the fly, which they showed against Pinewood, will likely come into play tonight as the Sharks vye for their first-ever NorCal win.

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