ALBANY, NY - In a repeat of last year's Federation Class "AA" championship game, Christ the King met Long Island Lutheran, a game which the Royals won last season. This season, the teams had actually met up in the Stop-DWI Tournament title game in December, where CK came from 17 back to defeat the Crusaders, this one played out in a similar fashion, as after being down 14 early, the Royals behind the 25 points of senior guard Andre Walker, stormed back for the 58-52 win at the Times Union Center.
"Because we played them in Binghamton and came back from being down so much, it gave us the knowledge and belief that we could come back."
Those were the feelings of senior center Adonis Delarosa, as CK got down 25-11, and it looked like a blowout victory for LuHi might be the order of the day, but Royals head coach Joe Arbitello echoed what Delarosa said, saying it was a combination of things that got them in the early hole, but he wasn't going too stressed about the situation.
"We weren't making shots," Arbitello said about the slow start. "Shots we usually make we just weren't hitting, but we got down like this against them in Binghamton, and we got within 8 at the half there, so I just wanted something like that here."
He got that as sophomore guard Rawle Alkins connected on a runner in the lane, and Walker got to the lane and got 4 straight from the line to get within 25-17 at the half.
CK needed someone to step up and take on the load offensively, with Alkins and Travis Atson being hounded by the LuHi defense, so Walker, a senior, figured it was his time to step up.
"I felt like at that point we were struggling offensively, so I had to take a chance, and chances make or break a team," Walker explained.
What Walker ended up doing was almost singlehandedly for a large stretch, being the Royals back in the game. He had 13 points in the 3rd quarter to get them within striking distance. A key moment though came with 42.8 seconds left in the 3rd, as Marvin Prochet, the junior wing, and top defender for the Crusaders, picked up his 4th foul, and soon after he was whistled up for a technical, which was his 5th foul, and put him out for the rest of the contest, a decision that LuHi coach John Buck felt was a very tough break for his squad.
"He yelled out in frustration and the refs gave him a technical, he wasn't yelling at anyone or the refs, he was just frustrated he picked up his 4th foul," Buck said. "Losing him hurt us a lot because we are such a different team with him not on rage floor."
The Crusaders still led after three 45-42, but Walker buried another three, and Alkins connected on a pair of FT's with 4:31 to go in the game to give Christ the King their first lead of the game. From there it seemed that the tank was on empty for Long Island Lutheran as they had trouble getting stops. Delarosa, Alkins, and senior Bryler Paige all stepped up as well with big shots and moments, as momentum had shifted to CK for good, and much like the DWI final, the Royals had fought all the way back, this time to claim a 2nd straight Federation title, over LuHi, 58-52.
Walker had the game high 25 points, and was named Federation Tournament MVP, a reward that Delarosa found very deserving for his friend.
"He stepped up so big," Delarosa said. "He's a senior, and carried us today when most of us didn't have it offensively, he deserved it and I'm so proud of him."
Arbitello took it even further saying if Walker doesn't step up, they don't win, so he understands just what he meant for the team.
Walker said that the moment, being MVP and leading his team to the win, is something he can't explain right now. He says in a couple days he might be able to put it in words, but for now, he thinks he might be the happiest guy in the world.
Paige had 10 points for CK, the only other Royal in double digits, while Delarosa had 6 points and 13 rebounds.
Chris Atkinson, the LuHi junior point guard, led the way for the Crusaders with 16 points, while Devonte Green, a sophomore two guard who is playing with an injured ankle, finished with 10, and while the loss is tough, Buck explained that he is still very proud of what the team accomplished this year.
"I am very proud of this team," Buck said. "We competed hard and I told them to keep their heads high, and let's get back to work in a few days for next year."
For now though it's Christ the King's time as the Royals get back to back Federation championships for the first time in school history, and while Arbitello said he and the kids will savor and enjoy this victory, as he remembers all the seniors did for him.
"Adonis, Andre, and Bryler were fantastic. I am so proud of my seniors and what they accomplished, and they will always mean a lot to me for helping us win it all this year."