By Dylan Butler
The stands at the Middle Village school were jam-packed for the game between two teams nationally ranked in the top-10 by USA Today and considered the two favorites to meet for the city championship at Fordham in March.But many of those fans started hitting the exits with No. 2 Rice leading by 11 with 1:12 left in the fourth quarter. What they missed was a stunning comeback by No. 9 Christ the King, which defeated the Raiders 69-68 in overtime in what is an early favorite for Game of the Year.Akeem Gooding sealed the win for Christ the King, sinking a pair of free throws with 0.8 seconds remaining in overtime after being fouled down low by Joe Vines.”It was a real adrenaline rush,” said Gooding, who had 16 points and 13 rebounds. “At first my mind told me that the game was over. I just had to calm myself down. I heard the crowd roaring and I had to take my time and knock down two free throws.”Gooding was in a position to win the game because of Chris Martin's heroics in the final minute of the fourth quarter. Trailing 59-48, the senior guard buried three consecutive 3-pointers in 37 seconds to bring the Royals to within 60-57.Suddenly those fans who were in the lobby scurried back into the gym.”They thought we were going to lose,” Martin said of the capacity crowd. “I saw them file out with like 1:08 left. Everyone left and then when we were down three with (23) seconds left, everyone came right back in and took their seat again.”Following Martin's third 3-pointer, an off-balance shot from the top of the key, Rice's Kashif Pratt turned the ball over on a five-second violation with 21.8 seconds left and the Royals had a chance to tie.Martin, who finished with 19 points, took a 3-pointer with 16 seconds left but it rimmed out. Gooding grabbed the rebound and the ball found its way over to Larry Davis in the corner by the CK bench, and the junior forward buried the game-tying 3-pointer with 10 seconds left.”I felt it, I thought it was a good kick and it was going in,” said Davis, who scored a game-high 23 points and added five rebounds. “It just went in and I was thankful for that.”Despite Martin and Davis' clutch 3-pointers, Rice (15-1, 6-1 CHSAA AA-West) would have still walked away with a win had it made its free throws. The Raiders were 2-for-6 in the final 1:12, with Edgar Sosa (19 points) going 1-for-4.”We got into a situation today when we just didn't do some things that we normally do,” Rice coach Maurice Hicks said. “If we make our free throws we win the game.”Christ the King (15-1, 6-0) took its first lead since 2-0 with 1:04 left in overtime on a fadeaway jumper by Davis. But Rice roared back, and on a 3-point play by highly-touted forward Curtis Kelly, the Raiders led 68-67 with 25.2 remaining in overtime.Kelly finished with 17 points but was uncomfortable throughout with the physical play of Andrew Gabriel and Ahmed Allen, who filled in quite nicely for starting center Adam Walker (broken right foot).Christ the King was also without starting guard Niko Scott with a hip flexor suffered in practice the day before.”The strength of this team is in its depth,” Christ the King coach Bob Oliva said. “With two starters out, and I'm not saying we would have done any better with them, because these guys are just as good.”Davis drove the baseline, but his layup attempt was blocked. Gooding grabbed the ball and went up hard from the left block where he was fouled by Vines, who finished with 14 points and would have been one of the Raiders' heroes had it not been for the unconscious long range shooting of Martin.”It's a big win, we're undefeated (in the league) and we showed that we're the best in the CHSAA right now,” Davis said. “We're just trying to continue and go undefeated the rest of the way.”Reach Sports Editor Dylan Butler by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 143.