By Anthony Bosco
The Christ the King Royals held Pittsburgh-bound Chris Taft to just 6 points en route to a relatively easy 52-42 win over the Xaverian Clippers in the Brooklyn/Queens Diocesan Tournament championship Friday night at St. Francis College in Brooklyn.
Japhet McNeil and Mitchell Beauford led the Royals with 16 points apiece, while sophomore guard Chris Martin added 9. The CK backcourt fueled the win, causing numerous Xaverian turnovers during a critical second-quarter run that turned a close game into a relative rout.
“A lot of people think this is the best backcourt in the city, but I’m not going to say that,” said Christ the King coach Bob Oliva. “I think this is the best backcourt I have right now. Backcourts can’t have a day off. We did a real good job defensively.”
Xaverian started the game without Taft, who remained on the bench for most of the first quarter, punishment for arriving late for warm-ups. But the Clippers didn’t seem bothered, battling the Royals evenly through the first eight minutes and trailing 11-10 after one.
A basket by Clyde Chapman, who led Xaverian with 11, and a free throw by Anthony Brinn gave the Kings County club a 13-11 lead, but Martin scored a minute later to tie the game and spark a 14-0 run that changed the course of the game.
Beauford and McNeil each had six during the stretch, carrying Christ the King to a 29-17 halftime lead.
“When you’re doing things mentally wrong it seems like you’re not playing hard,” said Xaverian coach Jack Alesi. “What appeared to look like a listless effort was just their being confused by what they were doing.
“It’s not an excuse, it’s what happened,” he added. “I think the responsibility falls on coaching and you have to work with what you have and we didn’t have them ready to play today.”
CK employed a variety of defensive presses to confuse Xaverian, which dominated the Royals in the two teams’ previous match-ups, as the 6-foot-9 Taft was able to exploit the absence of Royals big men Brian Williams and Justin Marshall inside.
But with Williams, Marshall and a variety of different players, including the seldom-used Elsmore Gabriel, a 6-foot-4, 235-pound forward who plays for the school’s football team, Taft was never a factor this time around.
“Japhet and Mitchell are the pulse of this team,” Oliva said. “Brian Williams is the heart. We were missing that heart the last game. He was there today.”
“That’s why you warm up and do these things,” Alesi said. “[Taft] never got into the flow of the game. He’s a good kid and it’s not his way, but it’s extremely frustrating. He’ll learn from it.”
Xaverian cut its deficit to five early in the third, but back-to-back buckets by McNeil pushed the lead back to 10 quickly. And when the Clippers got within three with 2:07 left in the third, CK responded with nine straight points, keeping Xaverian off the board for more than four minutes.
CK stretched the lead to as much as 15 in the fourth before Xaverian cut it to eight in the final minute.
The win locked up CK’s first Diocesan crown since the 1999 season. Christ the King heads into the playoffs with a 21-6 record and a bye in the first round.
St. Francis Prep 74, St. Peter’s 70. The St. Francis Prep Terriers survived a first-round scare Sunday, advancing to the second round with a hard-fought four-point win at Iona College. Junior guard Bryan Geffen led the way with 28 points, 11 assists and 5 steals. The Terriers improved to 16-9 and will face Christ the King Thursday at Iona College in the quarterfinals. Rice will play Archbishop Molloy also on Thursday. The semifinals will be held Sunday at Fordham.
All Hallows 66, Holy Cross 56. Ramose Modesto led the Knights with 16 points and Michael Johnson added 11, but it wasn’t enough, as Holy Cross fell to All Hallows in a first-round playoff match-up Sunday. All Hallows advanced to play Xaverian Wednesday, while the Knights finish up 11-15 on the season.
Bishop Loughlin 89, Monsignor McClancy 61. The Bishop Loughlin Lions easily advanced past the over-matched Crusaders Sunday and advanced to face St. Raymond’s Wednesday in quarterfinal action. McClancy finishes the season 7-19.
Class ‘B’ Playoffs
St. John’s Prep 77, Mount St. Michael 74. The St. John’s Prep Red Storm prevailed in three OTs Saturday afternoon at Bishop Ford High School, advancing to the CHSAA ‘B’ semifinals.
Five Red Storm players finished in double figures, led by Serge Clement with 20 and Jack Fulcher with 16. Gary Graham added 15, Jamel Bedford chipped in 11 and Bryant Dunston recorded a triple double including 12 points, 14 rebounds and 10 blocks.
“I just think the kids had true grit and determination and didn’t quit,” said St. John’s head coach Jimmy Gatto.
The Red Storm was scheduled to play Cardinal Hayes in the semifinals Tuesday night. Hayes beat SJP twice during the regular season in close games. The Red Storm is now 18-7.
Class ‘C’ Playoffs
Cathedral Prep 74, St. Joseph 72. The Cathedral Prep Crusaders defeated St. Joseph by the Sea Sunday at Sacred Heart High School in Yonkers to advance to the CHSAA C division championships game. Bradd Wierzbicki led the way with 27, followed by Ray Tinneny with 25. Cathedral Prep, now 17-7 overall, will face Monsignor Scanlon, winners over Regis, Friday at 6:30 p.m. in the championship game at Iona College.
Reach Sports Editor Anthony Bosco by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 130.