BRONX, N.Y. — In the first of four games in the second round of the 91st annual CHSAA playoffs where the Christ the King Royals faced off against the St. Peter’s Eagles. It was a seesaw battle with both teams exchanging blows but in the end, Christ the King came out victorious as they held off the Eagles for a 59-55 victory.
Christ the King was led by senior guard Tyson Walker, who scored a game-high 22 points.
The game saw a battle between Christ the King’s interior presence against the great perimeter game of St. Peter’s. Christ the King did a good job pounding the ball in the paint where the Eagles were weak, using their two big men to get the ball inside and get St. Peter’s into foul trouble. The style of play said it all, as Christ the King had five free throw attempts while St Peter’s had zero trips to the charity stripe in the opening half.
Junior guard Chris Clancy shot the ball pretty well for the Eagles in the first half, as he made 50 percent of his six field goal attempts and also made half of his four attempts from beyond the arc. The shooting was the reason why they only trailed Christ the King by one at intermission.
“They’re a good team,” said Christ the King head coach Joe Arbitello. “We weren’t going to put them away, they’re too well coached.”
In the third quarter, the Royals wasted no time extending their slim lead as Walker began to heat up. He made a long, top of the key 3-pointer to give the Royals a 29-28 lead. On their ensuing possession, sophomore guard Ryan Myers made a three of his own, this time from the right corner, to put Christ the King up 32-28. Then Myers scored two more points in transition to put Christ the King up 34-28, capping off an 8-0 spurt to start the second half.
“We were able to get stops,” Arbitello added. “Getting stops, coming down and scoring, they were not going to turn it over, we just had to get stops.”
Walker would drain two more 3-pointers in the third quarter to put his team up by double digits. Christ the King outscored St. Peter’s 18-7 in the third quarter and led 44-32 after three quarters of play.
“It was the will to not want to go home,” Walker said after the game. “I did not want this to be my last game today and that’s what it was, just the will to win.”’
The Royals were beginning to pull away but the Eagles had other ideas as junior forward Chris Ledlum ignited St. Peter’s by slamming on 6-foot-11 Moussa Cisse to pull his team to within eight early in the fourth quarter. Walker of Christ the King would once again make his presence felt as he stole the ball and scored on a transition layup to put Christ the King right back up by ten. The Eagles would come right back as senior forward Kaleb Hicks tipped in a Jamal Achille miss and drew a foul in the process to cut the Christ the King lead to seven at 46-39.
Christ the King would pick up defensively as Cisse blocked Achille’s layup attempt which led to a Myers fast break lay in. This gave the Royals a 50-41 lead but, once again, the Eagles refused to surrender as Hicks got a goaltending call and was fouled. He made the foul shot to cut the Royals’ advantage to six at 50-44. Walker continued to show his experience as he drew a foul and made both foul shots to give his team another eight point advantage.
A little later, Achille scored inside to cut the Royal lead to six at 52-46, but Christ the King answered on a Kofi Cockburn slam for two of his 16 points. Finally, the Eagles got a stop and senior guard Jordan Fox nailed a left-wing 3-pointer to cut the Christ the King lead to just three points at 54-51, leading to a Christ the King timeout. Out of the timeout, Walker missed a floater but Cockburn got the offensive rebound and drew a foul with 46 seconds left as he split a pair of free throws to give the Royals a slim 55-51 lead. Fox was unable to convert on another 3-pointer as time ran out to secure the win for Christ the King.
Christ the King will take on Cardinal Hayes in the CHSAA semifinals. In the regular season, Christ the King lost by 20 points to Cardinal Hayes in early December.
“We got to watch, prepare and decide.” Arbitello said.
The semifinals will be on Wednesday night at St John’s University.