QUEENS, N.Y. — In the second game of the Brooklyn-Queens AA semi-final, the Christ the King Royals defeated the Holy Cross Knights 78-63 to earn a championship date with Archbishop Molloy on Friday night. It was the third time this year that Christ the King defeated Holy Cross, having beaten them by 13 and 29 points in the first two meetings.
While it seemed like a foregone conclusion that Christ the King would run over Holy Cross to play Archbishop Molloy in the division championship, it did not look that way early on. The Holy Cross Knights started the game strong as sophomore guard Tyler Chapman converted on two straight three point attempts to give Holy Cross an early 10-1 lead.
Christ the King did not call timeout, and it turned out to be the right move as the Royals responded with a 10-1 spurt of their own to tie the game at 11. Junior big man Kofi Cockburn would put Christ the King in front with an emphatic dunk. Ryan Myers then scored in transition as Christ the King concluded the first quarter on a 17-2 run and led 18-13 after one.
“It’s just not my coaching style to call timeout there,” Christ the King coach Joe Arbitello said after the game. “’I did not feel like we weren’t getting good shots at the basket. I felt like we were just missing them, eventually they would go in, your team has to fight to get out of a hole and that’s just the way I like coaching.”
Holy Cross hung tough in the second quarter, as Robert Bland and Sahdique Watkins kept them in the game. The play of the Holy Cross guards helped tie the game at 22 with 5:45 remaining in the second quarter. Myers would respond to keep Holy Cross at bay. However, Tyler Chapman would convert on yet another 3-pointer to cut the Christ the King lead to 30-29. At the half, Holy Cross had to feel pretty good about themselves as they trailed just 34-29 going into the locker room.
In the third quarter, it was as if Christ the King turned it up a few notches as Tyson Walker nailed an uncontested straight away three point shot to put the Royals up 37-29. Then, off the turnover, Myers made a pull up jumper to give his team a 10-point advantage at 39-29. Following a Holy Cross timeout, not much changed as Christ the King junior guard Tavin Pierre-Phillip converted on a left corner 3-pointer which putt Christ the King up 42-29. Eventually the five point advantage was stretched to 19 and it was good night for the Knights.
“Our focus was not there in the first half,” coach Arbitello added. “You can’t shoot whatever we shot in the first half from the free throw line, we are a better shooting team, we were just not locked in, the message was to lock in, keep the guy in front of you.”
Coach Arbitello had high praise for the progression of the Holy Cross Knights and their first year head coach Eric Brooks.
“They fight, they’ve gotten so much better from the beginning of the year to now,” Arbitello added. “Everyone better be very careful with them come city playoff time because Eric Brooks is the first great Christ the King basketball player we had. I do not know if you guys know that, he was the first guy to come to Christ the King when this started in 1982 so he has that ‘Christ the King’ in him. He is not going to just say ‘here, here’s the game’, so we knew they would fight, we knew they would come back so I just thought our talent took over.”
Christ the King would go on to win the game by 15 as they were led by Myers who scored 18 points.
“It’s all about confidence,” Myers said after the game. “No matter the misses I got to keep playing, keep shooting and do what I do on the court offensively as a player.”
Christ the King was able to recover after a slow start and it all started on the defensive side of the ball.
“It was about getting back on defense,” Myers added. “We know we could score, we are bigger than them, we have size, so the key to this game was to get back on defense, they wanted to get our bigs down the floor and shoot threes, they’re a great shooting team.”
Christ the King will play Archbishop Molloy for the third time this month as they defeated them at home on February 2nd, 64-61 ,and then beat them again at Molloy by the same margin, 61-58. The game will be a 7:30 p.m. start at St. Francis Prep on Friday Night.
(Highlights courtesy of Mars Reel)