By Joseph Staszewski
The CHSAA Brooklyn/Queens title is Christ the King’s again and the Royals have Sierra Calhoun to thank.
The sophomore star sat out three minutes of the final quarter after picking up her fourth foul, but didn’t wait long to make her presence felt when she returned. Calhoun scored seven straight points, including a big three-pointer from the left side to start a game-changing spurt and cap a stellar final period.
“It was time to step up,” Calhoun said.
Calhoun hit her last five shots and scored 14 of her 22 points in the fourth quarter to lead No. 4 Christ the King to a 58-54 win over No. 2 Bishop Ford in the CHSAA Brooklyn/Queens Division I girls’ basketball final Saturday night in Middle Village. The Royals knocked off top-seeded and defending champion Nazareth in the semifinals and have now won 26 of the last 28 diocesan crowns.
“I was amped up,” Calhoun, who added nine rebounds, said. “I was sitting on the bench and I couldn’t really do anything. I got in the game, I knew I had to make a big impact.”
CK will be the top seed and get a first-round bye in next week’s CHSAA Class AA state tournament in a year that started 0-6 and featured five losses to league opponents. Ford, which beat the Royals in December, was playing in its first-ever championship game at the highest classification.
“It’s like that every year, everyone is against CK,” senior guard Rayne Connell said. “As good as we might be, we can be first in the country, ‘Oh, they’re not good, they’re not going to get there.’”
Added CK Coach Bob Mackey, “They just didn’t quit.”
Kollyns Scarbrough had 10 points and 10 rebounds and Connell added nine points for CK (15-13). Taylor Butigian chipped in 10 boards. Aaliyah Lewis paced Ford (22-5), which will also be in the state tourney as the diocesan’s second seed, with 14 of her 16 points in the second half. Aaliyah Jones had 12 and Shanice Vaughan added 11. Brittany “Pookie” Martin had 10 points and 10 boards. The Falcons shot 1-of-21 from beyond the arc.
“Sierra Calhoun, she’s a stud,” Bishop Ford Coach Mike Toro said.
Ford trailed for nearly three quarters, but charged into the fourth with a 35-33 lead after a 9-0 run. With Calhoun on the bench with four fouls, the Royals continued a 7-0 spurt, capped by a Kristen Drogsler layup to grab a 43-37 advantage with 5:14 left in the game. Ford crept within two, but Scarbrough rebounded her own miss and Calhoun buried a trey as the Royals began to put the game out of reach with three consecutive jumpers to help reclaim their diocesan crown.
“I want from here on out for all these spaces to keep filling up,” said Connell, pointing to a board listing Christ the King’s titles.
The players talked about maturing and jelling as the year’s gone on. By Mackey’s design it started with five straight games against nationally ranked teams, four at the prestigious Nike Tournament of Champions in Arizona.
Things got progressively better as CK picked up a win over nationally ranked Cicero-North Syracuse in early February, but ended the regular season losing three of its last four games. Now the Royals have won three straight and are one of the favorites to make a trip to Albany for the Federation tournament.
“This was just an incredible run,” Mackey said. “We are playing really well at the right time.”