BRONX, NY- Always one of the more exciting days of the year, the CHSAA held their Intersectional Quarterfinals on Sunday at Fordham University moving four teams one step closer to their goal of the coveted CHSAA Intersectional Championship.
To get their though each team had tough matchups in the quarterfinals, with the first two especially appealing as Brooklyn/Queens champions Christ the King faced off against a strong St. Peter's team out of Staten Island, while in the other contest it was defending CHSAA champions Cardinal Hayes going up against Bishop Loughlin.
The action didn't disappoint as both games lived up to the hype, and with NYCHoops.net at courtside let's look at how the opening two quarterfinals went as we recap the action from the Bronx.
Christ the King survives St. Peter's, 59 - 55
It wasn't always pretty at times for the Royals who trailed for much of the opening half, and while they had a strong third quarter coming out of halftime and building up a lead of as much as 12, Christ the King ultimately had to hang on down the stretch to pull out a 59-55 victory.
When Christ the King take on teams such as Archbishop Molloy or Cardinal Hayes, Royals head coach Joe Arbitello knows that the game will be a fast paced up and down contest. They can at times make mistakes and get away with them because of the style of place, but against a team like St. Peter's he knew that crispness and playing a great possession game would be critical to their success.
"We needed to make a conscious effort to play every possession like it was out last possession," Arbitello stated. "Against St. Peter's every possession is so crucial that you need to do everything right."
Out of the gate it wasn't so much anything that Christ the King was doing wrong it was more about the fact that the Eagles were hitting shots. Even solid defensively contested shots by Chris Clancy '19 and Kaleb Hicks '18 were on point as St. Peter's held the lead late in the opening quarter.
Chris Ledlum '19 would drain a pair of three's in the second, and with the secondary pieces for St. Peter's playing well, the Eagles had a lead of as big as 5 late in the half.
It wasn't until Kofi Cockburn '19 instilled his will on the game in the final minute before the break that Christ the King saw the momentum shift back to their side as the Royals scored the final 6 points of the first half to take a 26-25.
Going into the half up by 1 was a positive by most on Christ the King since they didn't play up to their expectations, with Cockburn especially saying that he knew him himself that he would need to do more to change the tempo of the game.
"I had to do what I had to do on the defensive end and rebound the basketball more, outlet the ball out and get the offense going more," Cockburn admitted.
Coming out for the second half saw the Royals and Cockburn do exactly that as he and Moussa Cisse '21 were more aggressive on the glass, and immediately after they got the board they were quick to find Tyson Walker '18 who would pull up for three's in transition along with fellow guard Ryan Myers '20 as the two combined for 5 made treys in the 3rd to build the lead up to 44-32 going to the 4th.
It looked at that point that Christ the King would pull away but getting a bit sloppy with the ball allowed them to give St. Peter's extra possessions that they would take advantage of. When Jordon Fox '19 drained a left wing three with 1:21 left to play, the Eagles were with 54-51.
In need of a big bucket, Walker found Cockburn inside who would fight his way to the rim and finish around two defenders bumping the lead up to a two-possession game again, a place the Royals would keep it the rest of the way.
FT's would pad the Christ the King lead in the final seconds, and a Clancy drive at the buzzer would make it a bit closer but it was still the Royals advancing after a tough challenge from the Eagles, 59-55
Getting 22 points from Walker, and 16 points and 14 rebounds from Cockburn were just enough to put Christ the King over the top for the win, while in defeat St. Peter's got 13 from Clancy, and a double-double of 11 points and 10 rebounds from the rugged Ledlum.
The win now moves Christ the King to the CHSAA Intersectional Semifinals to be played on Wednesday at St. John's University in Queens, with Arbitello admitting that he didn't care who he played instead focusing on the continued development of his young and talented Royals team.
"Last year we lost this game, this year we won so I'm happy."
Cardinal Hayes Downs Bishop Loughlin, 82 - 71
A shooting team that relies heavily on their ability to connect from the perimeter, it's been a struggle as of late for Cardinal Hayes as they shot as poorly as they have in a long time against St. Peter's and Stepinac in the CHSAA Archdiocese of New York Tournament.
The CHSAA Intersectional Playoffs are giving them a new life to get back on track from long range which is exactly what happened on Sunday against Bishop Loughlin as the Cardinals shot 11-23 from behind the arc to comfortably get past the Lions 82-71.
With their struggles from deep over the past couple of weeks Cardinal Hayes head coach Joe Lods admitted that when the game started, and he saw Bishop Loughlin in a 2-3 zone he wasn't surprised, saying he knew it was coming.
"St. Peter's had a lot of success in the zone against us, and Stepinac had a lot of success too," Lods said. "Teams know we are going to shoot it and if they don't go in we will lose so I knew and planned for them to be in the zone."
That planning, along with the belief of guys like Joe Toussaint '19 and Jontai Williams '18 gave them confidence that the shooting woes would turn around, and early on in their quarterfinal on Sunday they were more than proven right.
Williams would connect on 3 threes’, with Toussaint hitting 2 as the Cardinals jumped out to a quick double-digit lead. They made 6 of their first 10 from behind the arc and that solid start seemed to propel them to keep going, hitting on 8-15 in the opening half to take a 40-29 lead.
It was as good of a shooting start as Lods could've hoped for as he said the touch from deep was so good he was a bit hesitant to say anything to his team about it.
"When we are making shots like that I just want to keep my mouth shut because I don't want to do anything to screw it up," Lods admitted with a laugh.
For as strong as Hayes were playing, Williams said he didn't want to leave anything to chance either. They couldn't relax on their lead understanding that while they may not have a great overall record, Loughlin is a capable and talented team if the it took their foot off the gas.
"We knew we had to come out with the same fire and intensity and make sure we played the same way in the second half," Williams explained.
The Lions to their credit did do a better job in the zone in the 3rd quarter as they moved laterally better and got to their spots quicker, limiting the Cardinals chances, and while Julian Champagnie '19 was doing a good job finishing his chances in the paint, Loughlin never was able over the hump.
Loughlin was never able to get the deficit to single digits in the second half as each time it got down to a 10-12-point game, Tyrese Williams '18 was there with a clutch bucket in the lane. It was as clean a performance from start to finish as the Cardinals could've hoped for in this one as they would punch their ticket to the semifinals on Wednesday against Christ the King with a convincing 82-71 win.
Toussaint paced the way with 25 points for Cardinal Hayes, but with both of the Williams' scoring 15 points, and Terry Dawkins '18 adding 14 points and 11 rebounds it was a true team effort that led the Cardinals to the win.
In defeat it was 15 points and 14 rebounds for Champagnie who had a strong game inside, and with 4 players, all underclassmen, in double figures for the Lions as well the future does look bright for Bishop Loughlin moving forward.
Up next for Hayes is the aforementioned Royals of Christ the King in the CHSAA Intersectional Semifinals in a game that will take place on Wednesday night at St. John's University in Queens, and while Lods says he is understanding of just how much better of a team the Royals are as a team since the last time they met, it will still be anyone's game as his Cardinals will be ready to keep defending their title.
"They are bigger, stronger, and more formidable than ever," Lods said with a smile. "I know they are going to be a handful, but we aren't just going to hand them our trophy, they will have to rip it from us."