By Joseph Staszewski
Christ the King went to the videotape to find inspiration from humiliation.
Royals Coach Joe Arbitello made his boys’ basketball team sit and watch every painstaking minute of its uninspired 21-point loss to Cardinal Hayes just before Christmas. Arbitello wasn’t exactly nice while critiquing their performance.
“It was terrible,” CK junior guard Travis Atson said. “Sat right there, right in front of the screen just yelling about every single play about defense, defense, defense. That actually helped everybody a lot.”
Christ the King has been a different team since then. It went to Binghamton over the holiday break and beat Long Island Lutheran in the final for the Stop-DWI Classic title in a rematch of last season’s state Federation championship game. The Royals then came home and gutted out a 71-66 win over host St. Raymond in CHSAA Class AA play Monday for their fourth straight win. They have applied the lessons from the Hayes loss.
“I think we are a better team,” said star sophomore wing Rawle Alkins, who scored 18 points against St. Ray’s. “It made us work hard.”
There was complacency in the early season with the Royals coming off a state Federation ‘AA’ title. Arbitello has seen his players become more engaged both in practice and especially on the defensive end during games. Defensive intensity was a focal point after falling to Hayes.
“Now we want to win,” Arbitello said. “We want to support the name that is on our chest. I think the video of the game kind of woke everybody up.”
We still don’t know exactly how good this Christ the King team is because it has rarely been whole. Point guard Andre Walker returned to the lineup to score 12 points against St. Raymond after missing four games. Center Adonis Delarosa did not play against the Ravens after showing up late for school. Their absence allowed us to see how deep the Royals are.
Lesser known players like Atson and sophomore Tyrone Caldwell have excelled. Atson was named the MVP of the Stop-DWI Classic after a 17-point performance in the final. Caldwell made his presence felt early against St. Raymond, where he got the start in place of Delarosa. He scored a game-high 22 points.
“Guys only think we have two or three weapons — me Andre and Adonis — but Travis can play,” Alkins said. “Tyrone is an energy guys.”
Added Cohen, “I just felt like today was my day to step up.”
That’s exactly what the Royals have done as a unit. They turned one of their worst beatings in recent years into possibly the turning point in their season.
“The sky is the limit,” Atson said. “I don’t know what to say. People better watch out for us.”
They have certainly been put on notice.