With St. Francis having played a couple of close games with SCVAL De Anza Division teams, winning by one over Los Altos and by six over Mountain View, the expectation was for another competitive game Wednesday with Palo Alto.
That expectation was turned on its head as the Lancers unleashed a ferocious defensive performance and blew out Paly 67-25 in the semifinals of the Joe Schram Holiday Classic at St. Francis.
St. Francis (6-2) advances to play for the tournament championship at 7:45 p.m. Thursday against Santa Cruz. Palo Alto will play in the third-place game at 6:15 p.m. against Cupertino.
"I really challenged the kids,'' St. Francis coach Mike Motil said. "A lot of times they play to the level of the competition. Tonight they were really hungry to defend. All the kids flew around the court and had each other's back. They defended like crazy tonight.''
Paly kept it close in the first quarter, but St. Francis blew the game open with a 21-5 second quarter and kept at it in the second half, outscoring Palo Alto 33-11. Virtually every Paly pass was contested, most every ball handler trying to set up the offense harassed and pushed back toward the midcourt line, out of any kind of comfort zone.
"The kids realize they have a target on their back,'' Motil said. "In the WCAL you have to be real good every night.''
Vince Barringer, a 6-foot-7, 215-pound senior, led all scorers with 15 points. Brylan Lundy, a 6-3 senior shooting guard, scored 12, and Harlan Banks, another 6-3 senior and a transfer from Sacred Heart Prep, scored 11.
Ryan Lykken led Palo Alto (6-4) with nine points on three 3-pointers.
Los Altos 59, Pioneer 53
Los Altos recovered from a halftime deficit to beat Pioneer and earn the championship of the Aptos/Santa Cruz Warriors NorCal Invitational on Wednesday.
Jake Skaggs scored 26 points to pace Los Altos. He scored 67 points in the three games and was named tournament MVP.
Andrew Reilly was also an all-tournament pick. Reilly scored 14 against Pioneer after recording a double-double in the semifinal win over Lowell with 14 points and 13 rebounds.
The Eagles (10-2), who also won the Burlingame Lions Tournament three weeks ago, won their fourth straight, a streak that began with a 16-point win over Pioneer on Dec. 21.
Los Altos returns to league play Tuesday with a home game against Homestead.
Patrick Henry 77, Menlo 45
Menlo lost a third-round matchup against Patrick Henry of San Diego at the Torrey Pines Holiday Classic on Wednesday at Carlsbad High School.
The Knights (5-3) play St. Joseph's at 11:05 a.m. on Thursday.
Menlo junior Lucas Vogel had 14 points and senior Daniel Solomon added 13. Cort Halsey and Robby Enright each grabbed seven rebounds.
Mountain View 48, Berkeley 43
Mountain View finished third at the Aptos/Santa Cruz Warriors NorCal Invitational with its victory over Berkeley.
The Spartans (8-4), who have won four of their past five games, open league play at home Tuesday night against Milpitas.