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Walk this way: Senior guard leads Doz past CK for second straight SNY title

By Joseph Staszewski

The free-throw line was an unfriendly place for Benjamin Cardozo throughout the SNY Invitational, leaving Aaron Walker to resort to pleading for help there with the championship on the line.

The Judges, who missed 22 free throws in the semifinal, made only one of their last five in the fourth quarter. Walker, who had made the game-winning free throws the night before, wanted to leave nothing to chance with Dozo up by one with two seconds left in the game.

“Just go in please! Please!” Walker said. “I’ve been through this yesterday. I just wanted it to go in and close the game out.”

His first shot hit the back rim, hit the front rim and finally went in. The second was nothing but net.

“It felt like an hour,” Walker said of the first free throw. “I’m just, ‘Oh, my gosh, please go in’ and it went in.”

The two shots sealed the win, as well as putting the finishing touches on Walker’s most-valuable-player performance in a 66-63 victory over the Royals. The win gave them a second-straight title in the boys’ basketball event at City College Saturday, and was also their second win over the Royals in a little more than a week.

Walker, who took over in the fourth quarter, posted 20 points, eight rebounds, seven assists and four steals with Manhattan College coach Steve Masiello sitting courtside and others looking on. The Jaspers were the only school to offer him a scholarship prior to the game, but Walker’s performance earned him an offer from Canisius and interest from Rutgers, Cincinnati, St. Peter’s, St. Joseph’s University and St. Bonneventure, according to Dozo coach Ron Naclerio.

“Aaron is just wondering why,” he said. “He has great grades. He’s a 1470 on the SAT. He has an 80-84 average. Some kids get so much without doing that much. He’s doing a lot and not getting as much as he deserves.”

Naclerio also got a big effort from unsigned senior Tareq Coburn. He scored 21 points, including five three-pointers and was single-handedly responsible for a 10-0 Dozo run over the second and third quarters. It helped put the Judges up 42-32 with 5:23 to play in the third.

“I was feeling my shots,” said Coburn, who is recovering from a wrist injury. “My team was finding me and I was letting it fly.”

Tahiyr Vines added nine points for Dozo. Dejavaughn Utley and Rashond Salnave each added seven.

The Royals (12-6) didn’t go quietly in their second straight contest with Dozo (18-1), the first of which was lost at the buzzer on a Walker tip. CK never led in the game, but pulled as close as one twice in the final 5:52.

Jarred Rivers made one of two free throws to get Christ the King to within a point, 61-60, with 1:35 left in the game. Walker answered by scoring the final five points of the game, a transition dunk after outrunning Jose Alvarado to a long rebound. Tyrone Cohen split a pair of free throws that would have tied the score with 4.3 seconds left.

“Last two times we played them we didn’t get the breaks to go our way, a couple of free throws we didn’t make down the stretch,” CK coach Joe Abitello said. “At the end of the day they made the shots they needed to make to win the basketball game and we didn’t.”

Alvarado led the Royals with 22 points, eight rebounds and four assists and Cohen had 18 points and six boards. David Cole added 11 points and eight rebounds off the bench, but it wasn’t enough. CK would bounce back and beat Archbishop Molloy on Sunday.

Cardozo celebrated for the second straight year at CCNY. The goal, however, is to do the same after winning a second PSAL Class AA city title in the last three years. Dozo beat Wings in last year’s final after beating it for the SNY crown.

“We have been talking about what we have been doing. There is a goal we want,” Naclerio said. “Can we get it? We have a shot at doing it.”

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