By Joseph Staszewski
Christ the King found a way without Jose.
Royals star point guard Jose Alvarado picked up his fourth foul in the closing seconds of the third quarter with his team down a point. His backup quickly turned his absence into a non-factor, set the tone and gave Christ the King the lead for good.
Sophomore guard Tyson Walker wiggled his way through the Archbishop Molloy defense for a hoop on the opening possession of the fourth quarter. Senior wing Jared Rivers followed by hitting consecutive 3-pointers. That put the Royals up by eight and put them on their way to an important 68-61 win over the Stanners in CHSAA boys’ basketball in front of a standing-room-only crowd at Jack Curran Gymnasium Jan. 8.
“I just said, ‘Someone needs to step up. Someone needs to make it happen,’” Christ the King Coach Joe Arbitello said. “Tyson Walker started it off with the great move for a layup and Jared just kept going.”
The spurt put his team up 47-35 with 6:30 to play in the game. Molloy (7-2, 2-1) got a hoop from center Moses Brown, who battled foul trouble, and did not score again for the next 3:00. CK (7-2, 7-2) went up 58-49 when Rivers fed Yashawn Bright for a hoop with 3:21 remaining.
“Being a senior and a leader, I know the ball is going to be in my hands most of the time, especially in crunch time,” said Rivers, who scored eight of his 14 points in the fourth. “It’s my last year. I’m a senior. I’ve been through everything. I know what it takes to get the win.”
Walker scored 11 points and Bright added 13 for CK. Freshman guard Cole Anthony, son of former Knick Greg Anthony, paced the Stanners with 17 points, Issac Grant had 12 and Khalid Moore added 11.
Christ the King had blown a 10-point fourth quarter lead to Bishop Loughlin earlier in the week in what Arbitello called a “meltdown” by him and his players. The Royals turned to their defense, and to offensive fouls drawn by David Cole and Bright, to not let this one get away.
“One thing we were lacking was making those big defensive stops at the end of the game,” Arbitello said.
It made shots tougher in the paint and fouled out Stanners freshman guard Cole Anthony, son of former Knick Greg Anthony, on a charge with 11 seconds left, clinging to a five-point lead.
“It was very big” Bright said “Taking the charge at the end of the game, rebounding, clearing everything out, talking on defense.”
Stanners coach Mike McCleary said his young team showed its lack of experience down the stretch in the jam-packed gym. Molloy missed five free throws in the fourth, including the front end of a 1-and-1 and had key defensive lapses.
“We talk about focus. We have trouble sustaining our focus for 32 minutes,” McCleary said. “That’s a youth thing. That’s kids just not doing it, but I definitely think it was a tough environment, big crowd, boiling hot, every possession matters. I think some of those kids aren’t ready to do it for 32 minutes but hopefully they get there.”
While Christ the King hoping to nab a fourth-straight city title, ir currently finds itself in a dogfight for the Brooklyn/Queens regular-season crown. Beating Molloy was a big step toward achieving that goal.
“It was a huge win for us, knowing they beat Loughlin and we lost to them, coming in here,” Rivers said. “It’s a crazy environment and we had to come in ready to play and just get the win.”