MIDDLE VILLAGE, NY - Christ the King's 6'11" Adonis Dela Rosa played like a man possessed as he dominated on both ends of the floor during Sunday's re-match with Bishop Loughlin. The senior center had arguably his best performance of the season, inspiring the Royals to come back home and rout Bishop Loughlin, 67-49.
"Because of the moment, that's the best I've seen [Dela Rosa] play," said Royals Head Coach Joe Arbitello. "He was absolutely outstanding."
Teammate Travis Atson took it one step further. "He finally realized that nobody in the league can guard him."
Dela Rosa concurred. "I just knew they couldn't guard me." His stats back that assertion; 23 points to go with 13 rebounds and 3 blocks.
Dela Rosa's impact on the game went beyond his personal stats and he knew it. "Knowing that every time I caught the ball they were sending three guys to me, I knew Rawle Alkins had a driving lane. I knew Travis Atson had a driving lane [and] so did Andre Walker."
Coach Arbitello said that it was essential that Dela Rosa rose to the occasion. "When you graduate [seniors] Jon Severe, Malik Harmon, Jordan Fuchs and Isaiah Cosbert and [Loughlin] returns their five starters from last year and their two guys off the bench, you have to have your seniors step up and have a big game for you and I thought Adonis and Andre' both did that."
The re-match between Catholic School rivals was the center's first game back off a two-game suspension for a flagrant foul committed during a two-point loss against Loughlin on January 31st. The senior said having to watch his team play games without him was both difficult and enlightening. "It was a horrible feeling," Dela Rosa said. "I never want to see that happen again. We took a loss to Molloy and I knew if I was on the court, I would have made a difference. It really hurt, watching my guys play, from the sideline."
Even though vocal Loughlin fans occupied half of Christ the King's packed gym, the Lion's started the game flat as a pancake. Seton Hall bound Khadeen Carrington (9 points) scored his only first half basket early in the first quarter while his sidekick Mike Williams, who committed to Rutgers, was a non-factor, scoring only 2 points for the entire game. Dela Rosa also had some rust in the first half as he re-acclimated to his first game back since the suspension but he had back-up from his teammates.
Atson put the Royals on his back in the first quarter, outscoring Loughlin's go-to-guys by himself, inside and out with 11 of his 21 points coming in the first quarter. "Someone had to do it so I did it," he'd say after the game. The junior also snatched 11 rebounds.
The Lions continued to push the pace but trailed by 6 points to begin the second stanza. The Royals would extend that lead to 27-18 at the half, with Alkins taking over where Atson left off. The sophomore phenom, who had 12 points and 8 rebounds, was also a defensive presence with 6 blocked shots.
Shooting 8 for 32 in the first half, Loughlin's shooting woes continued as the third quarter began. Williams would never score a single field goal the entire game and Carrington continued to labor. Poor shooting by the Lions top scorers put the onus on the role players to play out of character.
Surprisingly, 6'8" senior center, A.J. Vernon (6 points) would momentarily be the one to step up to the plate for Loughlin in the third quarter with a whirling fade-away followed by a putback. Jayvian Delacruz (9 points) hit some clutch baskets and the Lions were somehow within 5 points of their nemesis to begin the final quarter.
Loughlin pulled to within one early in the final quarter but that's when Dela Rosa exploded scoring 14 points in the quarter as Loughlin foul troubles finally caught up with them. "I used my height as an advantage. I knew A.J. Vernon had four fouls so I was gonna attack him at all times," said Dela Rosa
Dela Rosa began to punish the Lions inside and from the foul line where he shot an impressive 11 of 14. Atson netted an and-1 in transition and with 3:48, Christ the King led 51-41.
Walker, who scored seven points, was masterful as the team's point guard, setting the table for teammates with seven assists. As a result, the Royals increased their lead to 15 with 2:18 left to play. Dela Rosa put a period on the sentence with a massive slam dunk as the Royals half of the gym chanted "CK".
Asked if the presence of South Carolina head coach Frank Martin in the stands motivated his performance, Dela Rosa replied, "That's funny because I didn't even know he was here. I was just playing my game."
The victory would tie the Royals and the Lions, in wins against each other, in the CHSAA standings as well as with matching 18-5 records overall. Regardless of who ends up having the first and second seed in the Brooklyn/Queens Catholic League, both teams will have a BYE in the upcoming playoffs and a chance to settle the score.