By Joseph Staszewski
Christ the King saw its season and state title hopes about to slip away with minutes left to play before the Royals were able to turn things around and ensure neither came to an end.
The Royals erased a five-point Benjamin Cardozo lead late in the fourth quarter and sent the game to overtime on a Rawle Aklins’ three-pointer. CK’s Andre Walker, who missed a potential winning shot in the fourth quarter, delivered a jumper with 17 second left in overtime to help Christ the King claim a 54-51 victory against the Judges in the state Federation Class AA boys’ basketball semifinals at the Times Union Center in Albany Friday afternoon.
Walker and his teammates refused to be sent packing.
“I didn’t want to go home,” he said. “Not in my senior year. No one wants to end their senior year on a loss.”
Christ the King, the defending Federation champions, was on the ropes after a 12-0 Cardozo run. An Elijah McNeely layup put CK in a 48-43 hole with 2:23 left in the game. Walker was fouled and made two free throws with 1:49 to play. Bryler Paige stole the ball from Cardozo sophomore Rashond Salnave to give the Royals back the ball. Rawle Alkins, off a set play, then delivered a trey from the top of the key to tie the score at 48-48 with 50 seconds remaining in regulation.
“I live for the clutch moments,” Alkins said.
Alkins scored 18 points and Adonis Delarosa added 13 points and six rebounds for CK (24-6). Travis Atson chipped in 10 points and nine boards and Walker tallied eight points and six rebounds.
“Coming out of the end of regulation and into overtime, the guys were pumped,” Delarosa said. “They were like, ‘Let’s get them out of here.’ We got all our confidence back.”
Salnave led all scorers with 20 points, but took 22 shots to reach that number for Cardozo (30-3). McNeely had 12 points and Francisco Williams added 11. Carl Balthazar chipped in six points and 10 rebounds.
The Judges, who were up 51-48 early in overtime, felt too good about their fourth quarter lead. They lost focus and gave Christ the King the opening it needed to get back in the game. Salnave, who played all 36 minutes, tried to pull his team back into the lead in overtime, but saw two shot attempts fall off the mark.
“In the overtime they gave us another chance and we didn’t take advantage of it,” he said.
Cardozo Coach Ron Naclerio believed his team missed an opportunity to put a cherry on top of the proverbial sundae of winning the school’s first city championship since 1999. He said he couldn’t be mad at his players after the season they had and the effort they put forth in the state semifinals.
“The ball has to bounce your way sometimes and it bounced our way a lot this year,” Naclerio said. “Ooh, I think Christ the King knew we were pretty good.”
The Royals now must get ready for their fourth state title game appearance in the last five year and a chance to win consecutive crowns for the first time in school history. They take on the winner of Long Island Lutheran and Green Tech (Section 2) in the final 8:30 p.m. Saturday. Christ the King’s recent success has put its recent teams among the best in CHSAA history along with Rice under Coach Moe Hicks and St. Raymond under Gary DeCesare. Christ the King Coach Joe Arbitello is happy to that the Royals have joined the ranks of those elite schools.
“I think it’s huge that we can put the program on a pedestal with those guys,” Arbitello said