FRESH MEADOWS, NY - Christ the King knew there was a lot on the line on Tuesday when they traveled to St. Francis Prep. A win would basically lock up either the 1st or 2nd seed in the Brooklyn/Queens Diocese Tournament, which would give them a 1st round bye.
A loss, and the Terriers would be right back in the hunt, and put the Royals in a position where the 3rd seed was a possibility.
While CK had an impressive 3rd quarter to take a 16 point lead at one point, SFP fought back and had a chance to tie the game up at the buzzer, but Shane Herrity missed a contested three, as the Royals held on for the 75-72 victory.
Going into the game, Christ the King Coach Joe Arbitello knew this was not going to be a push over game, admitting this Terriers team is really good, saying you cannot let them get into a rhythm.
"They are a pretty darn good team, and when they are making shots they are tough to beat," Arbitello said.
He proved to be right as early on the Terriers were making seemingly every shot they took. Jordan Santiago got into a rhythm and hit his first four shots from the floor, and Michael Fields knocked down a pair of jumpers off of screens, as St. Francis Prep took a 1 point lead after the 1st quarter.
SFP Coach Tim Leary said he believed going in that his team would be competitive against Christ the King, as they proved to be, but he said his only fear was that his players wouldn't necessarily have the same belief he did.
"They all read social media and they go online and read about all the kids Christ the King has, and how good they are, but I don't know if my guys know how good they are. I have to pump them up a lot. I wish they had more confidence in themselves to know that they are good," Leary said.
The first quarter would certainly help his squad's confidence, but Santiago picked up his 3rd foul in the 2nd quarter, and soon after, the shots for the Terriers stopped falling for a bit.
Adonis Delarosa, the big 6'11" senior, was able to back his way in and score, while also cleaning up on the glass, and finishing with ease around the rim. He had 11 points at the half, and Rawle Alkins
"I know no one they have can guard me if I keep the ball high so I just tried to imposed my will and shoot over them," Delarosa said.
The lead continued to grow for Christ the King, and it become 53-37 at one point with 3:38 left in the 3rd, and soon after that, Santiago, who was left in the game after he picked up his 4th foul, picked up #5 and fouled out. Leary though, in that situation, felt as if he had no choice but to leave in his team's leading scorer.
"He was doing the aggressive things that needed to be done for us. More than anything though I felt bad for him. We were very aware of what the fouls were, but we felt if we kept him on it would be over for too early," Leary said.
Now though, they were left to play without him for the last 10 minutes of the game, but instead of shutting up shop and letting CK take over, the Terriers ended up clawing their way back.
Herrity scored 6 points late in the 3rd, and solid defending managed to limit CK to missed long jump shot opportunities, plus FT's were becoming an issue, with the Royals missing from the line a high rate, which allowed SFP to stay in it, and after three, it was back to a 6 point game.
The 16 point lead had been chipped to just 6, but Arbitello didn't think that the 16 point lead was a true indicator of how good the Terriers were.
"I was happy to be up 16 but I don't think we are 16 points better than them. I knew they weren't done yet," Arbitello said.
They most certainly weren't as St. Francis Prep was able to get the deficit down to two on a number of occasions, but each time they did, it seemed like someone from Christ the King stepped up with a big play.
It became the closest it had been with 49 seconds to go though after Herrity converted an and-1 play off a drive down the right side to make it 70-69. It was Delarosa who came up huge though, turning around from the FT line and knocking down the jumper to up the lead once again to 3, and while there were nervous moments, Delarosa said his confidence in getting the win never wavered.
"We had already played them once at our place, and we had a very good showing, so I said we are going to go into their house and we will beat them, I kept saying that because I believed it," Delarosa said.
Delarosa may have been confident, but it was still anyone's game. Herrity knocked down another big shot to cut it to one again, but with 10.6 seconds left, Andre Walker hit a pair of FT's to make it 75-72.
St. Francis Prep had one last shot to tie, but Herrity missed a three ball just before the buzzer, giving the Royals a hard fought 75-72 victory.
Delarosa led Christ the King with 22 points and 14 rebounds, while Alkins had 18, along with a big block late in the game as well. Walker and Travis Atson also added 14 and 12 respectively in the win. A win in which Arbitello was excited about because of how good he feels the Terriers are.
"They run their offense to get the best possible shot, and to me they have one of the best point guards in the city in Fields, I mean he is the real deal and I don't know why he isn't getting more attention," Arbitello said. "I'm happy to just get the win against them."
He added the bonus of locking up a top two seed in the B/Q Diocese Tournament made the game have extra meaning, and made the win just that much sweeter.
Fields paced St. Francis Prep with 20 points, with Herrity adding 19, and Santiago chipping in with 12.
While they were competitive from start to finish, Leary said the game left a little bit more to be desired for him.
"Do I feel good that we gave them a game and made them sweat? Yeah. Is it a moral victory? I guess, but we want more than that now," Leary said.
Now the focus drifts to the big game Friday night when Christ the King travels to Brooklyn to face Bishop Loughlin, and while the game is important for both teams on many level, Alkins says the game for him, is at this point, more about respect.
"Friday is just a statement game. We lost to Cardinal Hayes and seemingly everyone forgot about us, so this game I guess you can say will put up back on the map," Alkins explained.
Arbitello also understands what the game means, and what his team is dealing with going in.
"We got a very big task in front of us in playing Loughlin at Loughlin," Arbitello said. "They are pretty good, and they will be really up to play that game, they are playing good ball right now and I'm sure they have us circled on the calendar."
After losing to the Royals in last year's CHSAA City Championship game, that is a pretty sure bet, but as Alkins added, his team believes they can go in and get the job done.
"Our mindset is to get the W, and we have the confidence that we can go in and win, so it should be a good game, and we will just see what happens."