By Troy Mauriello
Christ the King’s quest for a fourth straight city title continues—barely.
Despite a litany of mistakes and some head-scratching late decisions, the Royals prevailed 79-77 in double overtime against St. Raymond’s in the CHSAA Class AA boys’ basketball quarterfinal at Fordham University Sunday.
“We made so many mental mistakes and so many physical mistakes… it was just not a well-played game down the stretch,” Christ the King Coach Joe Arbitello said. “It was entertaining, but it wasn’t well-played.”
The game was tight all the way through, with St. Ray’s leading 25-24 at the half and 42-40 going into the fourth. A three-pointer from Jared Rivers—who returned from a shoulder injury—pulled Christ the King within 55-52, with 1:29 left in regulation.
The Royals then got a key defensive stop and were able to get out in transition, leading to a Tracy Cleckley basket and a foul, to tie the score at 55-55 with 47.6 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter.
On the ensuing St. Ray’s possession, Isaiah Washington nearly gave his team the lead with a tip-in that just fell off the rim and out with 12.5 seconds left, leaving CK with a chance for the final shot of regulation. Omar Silverio paced St. Ray’s with a game-high 24 points.
Jose Alvarado passed up what looked to be an open three and then had his shot blocked at the buzzer by Dallas Watson, sending the game into overtime.
In that first overtime, Christ the King opened up a 61-56 advantage, but some turnovers and poor defense brought the game back into a deadlock at 63 all with 55 seconds left to play.
St. Ray’s retook the lead with 30 seconds left after a Washington jumper from the foul line, but Tyrone Cohen, Christ the King’s leading scorer with 22 points, scored his biggest basket of the afternoon when he connected on a shot and was fouled with 4.2 seconds left, sending him to the line with a chance to all but win the game.
However Cohen’s free-throw rimmed out, and a St. Ray’s heave at the buzzer missed, pushing the game to a second overtime. There CK again jumped out to a commanding advantage after an Alvarado steal and layup gave the Royals a 72-67 lead with 1:31 left.
The advantage was 79-74 with just 12 seconds left, but Christ the King did all it could to let St. Ray’s back in the game. First, it fouled Omar Silverio shooting a trey and he hit all three free throws to make it just a two-point game.
Rivers then traveled with 3.4 seconds remaining. That gave the ball back to St. Ray’s, but a potential Watson three-pointer air-balled at the buzzer, giving Christ the King the dramatic win.
Although Cohen led CK in scoring, its player of the game was likely Alvarado. The junior guard scored 21, grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds and dished out a team-high eight assists.
“We just kept playing, Tyrone hit the and-one to tie the game up, and we just kept on playing and playing,” said Alvarado about the overtimes.
Rivers added 15 points; Cleckly tallied 14 and eight rebounds as well. The Royals’ quest for a fourth straight city championship will continue on Wednesday against Bishop Loughlin in the semifinals 8 p.m. at St. John’s University.
The Lions won two of the team’s three meetings, including an overtime game in the Brooklyn/Queens semifinals. Christ the King is confident it can lean on its championship experience.
“This is when it comes down to the seniors,” Cohen said. “We have nine seniors on the team…so we know what it takes to get the job done this late in the season.”