By Dylan Butler
WHEELING, W.Va. — Corey Edwards believes Christ the King is the most talented basketball team in New York City. And it’s hard to argue, with up to six Division I players among its top eight players.
But talent only takes a team so far. And right now, it is leading the Royals down the bumpy road of mediocrity.
Christ the King brought its rep to Wheeling Jesuit University, but forgot to pack any type of defensive intensity and the result was a 72-59 lambasting by Gonzaga (D.C.) at the Cancer Research Classic Saturday night.
“We came out flat and it was embarrassing losing by 13 in front of a crowd like this,” Edwards said. “There’s no words for that.”
Gonzaga scored at will in the first half, opening up a 20-point halftime lead while shooting a remarkable 73.1 percent from the field. The Eagles went on a 22-4 run early and never looked back.
“We didn’t play hard,” Christ the King Coach Joe Arbitello said. “Guys weren’t guarding the wings, leaders aren’t doing what they’re supposed to do on the defensive end. That’s the most disappointing part.”
Sophomore point guard Nate Britt led the way for Gonzaga (10-4) with 20 points on 6-of-7 shooting with five rebounds and five assists. Fellow sophomore D.J. Fenner added 15 points and Malek Williams and Ben Dickinson scored 10 points apiece for the Purple Eagles, who are 2-1 against CHSAA teams this year. Gonzaga defeated Holy Cross at the Gonzaga D.C. Classic and then lost to Rice at the Beach Ball Classic in Myrtle Beach, S.C.
Christ the King (5-3) showed some pride in the third quarter and even cut its deficit to 10 before a comedy of errors at the scorer’s table took two points away from the Royals. But that wasn’t nearly as comical as Christ the King’s attempt at playing defense, especially in the first half.
“Against a team like that you either have to play hard from the jump ball or you have to have a lead and we didn’t have either,” Edwards said. “We showed a little pride in the third quarter, buckled down and stopped worrying about offense and started worrying about defense.”
Senior forward Chris Ortiz scored 15 points, star junior guard Omar Calhoun struggled, shooting 4-of-12 from the field, T.J. Curry had 12 points and Edwards added 11 for the Royals, who shot 42.6 percent from the field and 20 percent (3-of-15) from three-point range.
Christ the King came into the season as the defending CHSAA Class AA intersectional and New York State Federation Class AA champions. Edwards, the George Mason-bound point guard and Calhoun, were touted as the best backcourt in the city and the Royals’ sophomores were heavily hyped.
But CK has yet to jell as a team and its shown in a pedestrian start to the season.
“When we decide that we’re going to play defense, I don’t think there’s a team in our league that’s going to run their offense as well or have the players like Gonzaga has to run that type of offense,” Arbitello said. “If we decide to guard for 32 minutes, we’re going to be really tough to beat. But if we keep doing what we’re doing, we’re going to be a very average team.”
Edwards, though, thinks the Royals can right the ship.
“Last year’s team, no one had big egos,” he said. “This team, we all get a lot of press so everyone’s ego is sky high. Sometimes you have to put your egos aside. If guys like LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh can do it, I know we can do it. We can work together and be one team.”