By Marc Raimondi
Jon Severe has noticed something about his team. Christ the King has something of a switch, not unlike the light in your living room.
“Every time we lose, in the next game we just play together,” the Royals junior guard said. “I don’t know how. Every time we lose, the next game we find a way to play better every time. We just gotta keep playing like that. We can’t go off and on.”
There were elements of good Christ the King Friday night and there were splashes of bad Christ the King. In the end, the good won out en route to a 77-71 victory over pesky Bishop Loughlin in CHSAA Class AA boys’ basketball in Middle Village.
The Royals (13-6, 7-1 ‘AA’) led 34-22 at halftime and seemed to be in position to roll over a young and inexperienced team — except they left that first-half excellence in the locker room downstairs. Loughlin (8-7, 3-4) whittled its deficit down to 42-40 after three quarters and actually had a 55-52 lead on Michael Williams’ three-pointer with 3:55 left in the game.
“Part of the problem today was we came out in the second half and we thought the game was over and somebody forgot to tell Loughlin,” Christ the King Coach Joe Arbitello said. “They jumped back on us. You could see our intensity was terrible.”
UConn-bound guard Omar Calhoun responded to Williams’ 3, like he has so many times before, with a trey of his own to pull the Royals even. Severe followed with a steal and tough layup and CK never trailed again. Calhoun was 6-of-6 from the free throw line in the fourth quarter and finished with 30 points. He’s been just about automatic from the stripe when the Royals are protecting a lead.
“That’s why we run about 18 screens to get him the ball,” Arbitello said with a laugh. “Make that 19 screens.”
As impressive as Calhoun was, it was hard for anyone to overshadow Williams. He was absolutely unconscious in the fourth quarter, where he scored 21 of his 26 points and drained four three-pointers. Williams, just a sophomore, almost single-handedly won the game for Loughlin.
“Mike’s a shooter,” Loughlin Coach Ed Gonzalez said. “Mike can play. He works at it and he’s a superior shooter.”
Khadeen Carrington had 15 points and Jordan Nanton added 12 for the Lions, who lost to Christ the King in a nail-biter the first time as well 77-75. Loughlin has been in almost all its games this year and has won many of them. But one part of the formula is simple: a slow start.
“Every game we’re down 10 or 12 points at halftime,” Gonzalez said. “I wish games would start in the third quarter. It’s youth. We’ll get better. We gotta learn we can’t come from behind every game.”
Severe, who picked up an offer from Xavier following the game according to Arbitello, had 17 points and Isaiah Lewis added 12 for the Royals. Severe said that same switch turned on again in the fourth quarter when Christ the King fell behind.
“We’re a talented team,” Severe said. “One to five, we all can score and sometimes we play ‘D.’ Yeah, sometimes. But we’re gonna fix that in practice.”
Arbitello said he saw positive signs: unselfishness down the stretch and important defensive stops. Christ the King, he said, is on the right track since a win Jan. 24 at St. Francis Prep, which followed Sunday’s loss to Xaverian.
Loughlin isn’t far off, either.
“I think we’re gonna have our hands full for the next two years,” Arbitello said. “Maybe if they start really putting it together, this year. They make some young mistakes, but last time we played them they made more young mistakes than they made today.”
The Royals flipped the switch just in time.