By Joseph Staszewski
Christ the King basketball Coach Bob Mackey has made a habit of providing his team with a dress rehearsal before playing three games in three days to claim the CHSAA Class AA state title.
Mother Nature raised the level of difficulty this time around.
The heavy snow early last week limited the Royals to just an hour of practice time all week. The team got into the gym right before the varsity boys’ team took on Mount St. Michael at 4 p.m. Jan. 16. Three games in three days followed.
“We have 50 minutes, here we go,” Mackey said. “There was no talking. It went up and down. It went up and down and then, ‘Good job. Let’s go home.”
It didn’t keep the Royals from doing a great job over the weekend, winning all three contests. They battled through a tough first half to top PSAL title contender South Shore 49-32 at The Mecca Friday and used a 22-3 second half run to secure a victory over New Jersey power St. John Vianney at home Saturday. CK traveled in Pennsylvania to beat Spring Ford 74-65.
“That’s pretty impressive,” CK sophomore guard Sidney Zambrotta said. “I don’t think a lot of teams can do that. With our caliber we can do that.”
Mackey didn’t believe his team played its best during the first two games of the stretch because of the lack of practice time, but they were resourceful and determined and found a way to win.
“We didn’t play well,” Mackey said. “I wish we did. We didn’t play great, but you know what? We played really well when we needed to. That was key.”
The success further shows this Christ the King team is the school’s best chance to win a state Federation Class AA title since it claimed the crown back into 2010. That team went 2-1 during its scheduled three-game stretch, losing to Vianney at home before beating Trenton Catholic and nationally ranked Archbishop Carroll (Pa.) on the road. That trio of games was tougher, but they did it with a full week of practice.
“I’m very proud of my team,” sophomore guard Dominique Toussaint said. “Usually when we have a few days off, we have fatigue, our legs are tired. We played through it this time.”
Come March it won’t be any easier when you have to beat the likes of rival Nazareth and St. Anthony’s (L.I.) among others just to make the trip to Albany for the Federation tournament. This CK group is looking more and more ready to tackle that. Mackey always puts them in the best situation to improve. It’s just a matter of the kids responding.
“It’s tough for teams to do,” Mackey said of playing on consecutive nights. “Pro teams hate to do it.”
Christ the King embraced it and succeeded. Who needs to practice?