By Joseph Staszewski
Christ the King’s season proved to be safe in Adonis Delarosa’s hands.
The Royals center drew a game-changing offensive foul in the closing seconds with his team down two points and put his club up for good with a tough three-point play on the next possession.
“I’m a senior so I have to make the game-winning play,” Delarosa said. “You know what I did. I did that and I called for the ball and I was successful.”
Once it got the lead, Christ the King was able to hold on for a thrilling 49-47 win over Archdiocesan champion Cardinal Hayes in the CHSAA Class AA boys’ basketball semifinals at Fordham University Thursday night. It was a rematch of last year’s semifinal also won by CK. The Royals will look to win its fourth city title in the last five years when they face rival Bishop Loughlin in the final for the second-straight year Sunday at 3 p.m. back at Fordham.
The Royals wouldn’t be headed to the final without Delarosa. He scored 12 points and grabbed nine rebound with St. John’s Coach Steve Lavin in attendance. Royals Coach Joe Arbitello said he already had his losing locker room speech planned out in his head with 1:07 left in the game. Hayes guard Shavar Newkirk, who is headed to St. Joseph’s University, gave his team a 47-44 lead with a three-point play and CK missed eight fourth-quarter free throws.
“I thought we were going to lose from the free throw line,” Arbitello said.
Instead they won it there.
The 6-foot-10, 280-pound Delarosa made one of two free throws to make it 47-45 with 55.9 seconds left. He then drew an offensive foul, with a touch of acting involved, when Hayes’ Nathan Ekwo used a high forearm to push off and create space while going to set a screen.
Delarosa wanted the ball with a chance to put his team up. He caught the ball on the left block and lumbered his way through the lane for a basket and the foul to give Christ the King (22-6) a 48-47 advantage with 17.3 seconds remaining.
“I knew if I came down I had to impose my will,” Delarosa said.
Cardinal Hayes guard Jamal Smith got a good look at a three-pointer from the right corner on the next possession, but it went long. Travis Atson grabbed the rebound, made one of two free throws and Hayes’ half court heave was off the mark. Cardinals Coach Joe Lods felt the offensive foul call on Ekwo was “shameful.” He wanted the kids to decide the outcome.
“You have an arm bar that knocks down a 250-pound kid?” Lods said. “What’s going to knock him down? An arm bar? Maybe I can go get the school bus and I can knock him down. That’s ridiculous.”
Rawle Alkins scored a game-high 18 points for Christ the King. Atson had seven points, nine rebounds and a monster transition dunk on Hayes forward Akintoye Ojo early in the fourth quarter. Royals point guard Andre Walker chipped in nine points before fouling out in the final frame. Newkirk tallied 13 to lead Hayes (26-2). The victory avenges Christ the King’s 69-48 loss to Hayes back in December.
“We knew it wasn’t going to happen [again],” Atson said. “We didn’t let it happen.”
The Royals, the defending state Federation and city champions, will look to take some frustrations out on Bishop Loughlin next. The Lions pasted CK 90-77 in the diocesan final last week. Alkins guaranteed victory prior to Christ the Kings’ regular season win over Loughlin and wasn’t shy about doing it again.
“They think they’re the almighty team. We’re the best in team in New York,” Alkins said. “We’re the best team in New York state. We just proved it right now and Sunday…this is a guarantee from me, we’ll win the game Sunday.”