By Joseph Staszewski
Rawle Alkins was sick heading into Christ the King’s much anticipated game with borough rival Benjamin Cardozo, but he was going to do whatever it took to be on the court.
Sophomore point guard Jose Alvarado made sure to remind the junior boys’ basketball star he wasn’t going to go at it alone.
“I told Rawle on the side, ‘I know you are sick, we are going to play our best,’” Alvarado said. “‘I understand playing sick, but I got you. We are going to let you take a break today and you are going to bring it the next game.’”
He delivered on his promise by scoring 25 points and running the Royals’ transition game to perfection in a 76-64 victory over Cardozo in front of 1,800 people during the Apparel Challenge at Christ the King Sunday night. It was the main event in a showcase of four games that pitted programs sponsored by Nike against ones associated with Under Armour.
Alvarado has never let a big stage or challenge get to him. This was just another case of him delivering in the clutch.
“He was just scoring at will,” Alkins said. “He played higher than his age, higher than his grade level.”
Alvarado’s big night came with Alkins scoring just nine points, including four in the final minute. Jared Rivers was also sensational. He tallied 17 points by getting out in transition and moving well without the ball. Tyrone Cohen added 15 points. Tareq Coburn paced Cardozo (9-1) with 21 points. Aaron Walker had 18 points and Rashond Salnave added 14.
“I’m a lucky guy,” Royals coach Joe Arbitello said. “I have Division I guys coming off the bench. On a night when Rawle doesn’t play great we got other guys to step up.”
Christ the King (10-2) never let Cardozo wrestle control of the game away in a rematch of last year’s state Federation ‘AA’ semifinals. The Judges, who trailed 34-30 at the half, were within 34-33 after Coburn hit a 3-pointer to start the third quarter, but it is the closest they would get.
The Royals responded by going on a 20-5 run to take a 54-38 lead on putback by Cohen with 2:56 to go in the third. Judges coach Ron Naclerio saw good shots not drop, loose balls his team did not get and Christ the King control the boards during the run. It allowed the Royals to get out in transition.
“We got lazy on defense,” Naclerio said. “I think we got tired, which worried me. Unfortunately, we had some shots that didn’t fall and they got quick layup, quick layup.”
He also praised Walker’s ability to use his strength and quickness to slow down Alkins as well as lead the Judges’ offense. Naclerio is hoping his club’s first loss brings them closer together.
If the two teams don’t meet again in Albany in the Federation tournament, they will square off at Cardozo next season on Jan. 29. Both coaches hope to make the matchup between Queens’ premier programs an annual occurrence.
“I think it’s something we have to do every year,” Arbitello said. “They’re the best PSAL team in Queens and we are the best CHSAA team in Queens. Why not?”