Christ the King, behind monster efforts from its two stars, and buoyed by a miracle shot at the end of regulation, came back from a 13-point deficit on Friday night to top CHSAA rival Holy Cross at home in double overtime, 92-87.
The Royals, coming off a disappointing loss at Bishop Loughlin on Wednesday night, started strongly on Friday, jumping out to a quick 11-5 lead on a coast-to-cast lay-up by guard Marion "Poota" Smith with 4:48 left in the first.
Holy Cross, however, was able cut the Christ the King lead to one on a three-pointer from guard Blaise Ffrench and two free throws by center Ernest Freeman.
Christ the King forged back ahead by four at 15-11, but a driving lay-up by senior forward Kayvon Roberts pulled Holy Cross within two just before the end of the first quarter.
After a fast break lay-up by Christ the King forward Ryan Pearson put the Royals ahead, 21-18, Holy Cross scored a pair of buckets to take its first lead of the game with 4:58 remaining in the second.
Up one, 26-25 with 2:58 to go, the Knights finished the half on a 12-4 run – getting contributions from five different players – to take a 38-29 lead at the break.
Holy Cross carried momentum from its late half surge into the third quarter, and a Ffrench driving lay-up at the 5:03 mark put the Knights ahead 49-36.
Christ the King, however, regrouped following a timeout by head coach Bob Oliva. The Royals, led by five points apiece from Pearson and point guard Erving Walker, went on a 12-4 run to cut the Holy Cross lead to five at 53-48 with 1:25 left in the third. The Knights led 58-53 entering the fourth.
A jump stop floater by Walker immediately cut the Cross lead to three, but leaners by forward Tim Beinert and guard Sylven Landesberg stretched the Knight lead to seven. Walker then hit a three from far beyond the arc to bring the Royals within four at 62-58. Landesberg answered with a pair of free throws, but two baskets and a free throw by Pearson trimmed the Holy Cross lead to just one, 64-63 with 4:17 remaining.
Right after the Holy Cross inbound, Ffrench was called for his fifth foul, a charge, sending Walker to the line with a chance to give Christ the King the lead. The usually accurate free-throw shooter missed both free throws though, and a three on the other end by Beinert put Cross back up by four.
The Knights then employed an aggressive trap to try to force Christ the King into a turnover, but Walker was able put in an acrobatic lay-up in traffic. Freeman then missed the front end of a one-and-one for Cross, and Christ the King took advantage, with senior forward Anthony Martin converting a three-point play to give the Royals a 68-67 lead.
Two more free throws by Landesberg put Cross on top, 69-68 with 1:59 left. Walker and Pearson though, as they often do, answered for Christ the King. A pull-up by the Florida-bound point and a jump hook by the George Mason-bound wing put the Royals ahead, 72-69, with 1:22 to go.
Freeman split two free throws at the 1:03 mark, and on the ensuing Christ the King possession, Walker made one of his few mistakes of the night.
After breaking a Holy Cross trap, the 5'8" senior foolishly drove into a crowded lane with plenty of time still on the shot clock and got stripped. A scrum for the ball materialized, and Beinert came away with it for the Knights, starting a fast break that would eventually end with Landesberg being fouled with 41.7 seconds remaining.
The Virginia-bound guard coolly canned two free throws to knot the game at 72-72.
The next possession brought calamity, with Christ the King missing two ill-advised shots, only to steal the ball back from Roberts when he tried to push off the rebound. Smith though, then tried to make an impossible pass to guard Ishaan Davis. The look was stolen by Landesberg, who was then inadvertently fouled by Davis with 5.1 seconds to go.
Landesberg again made both free throws and put Holy Cross up 74-72. The inbound pass was then stolen by Landesberg, who was again sent to the line, this time with 2.1 seconds left and a chance to ice the game.
The 6'6" senior missed the first, but hit the second, leaving Christ the King with a sliver of hope, down three.
Davis turned that sliver into a shred when he threw a perfect three-quarter court inbound pass to Pearson. The 6'5" swingman then turned and fired a three-pointer with a defender in his face. The shot banked off the backboard and in, sending the game into overtime and the packed Middle Village gym into pandemonium.
Pearson scored the first three points of overtime on a leaner and one of two free throws, but Cross guard Tyshawn Russell knocked down a three to tie the game at 78-78. Walker later broke an 82-82 tie with 57 seconds left on a fast break lay-up.
Landesberg responded for Holy Cross, cashing in on a smooth left drive and lay-up with 12 seconds left. The game went to double overtime when neither team could score in the waning moments.
The Knights went cold in the second extra session. After Russell missed an open three and Beinert failed on a contested lay-up, Walker drained two free throws to put Christ the King up, 89-84 with 32.4 seconds left. Holy Cross couldn't get anything to fall on the other end again, and the Royals sealed the 92-87 victory by going 5-for-6 the rest of the way from the line.
Pearson led all scorers with 34 points, and he reflected after the game on his big three.
"I think that was the biggest shot I ever took in my life," said Pearson. "I lined it up -- I wanted to go straight in, but it went off the backboard -- and once it hit the backboard, I knew it was going in."
Walker, the unsung hero of the contest, dropped 33 for the Royals, 26 of which came in the second half and the two overtimes. "This was the best win, so far, of my career," Walker said afterward.
Landesberg led Holy Cross with 34 points. The heartbreaking loss hurt doubly for the Knights, considering that they have games coming up against Lincoln on Sunday and Rice on Tuesday. "When you win games like this, you don't analyze anything," said Holy Cross head coach Paul Gilvary. "The team that loses can agonize over so many things, but it doesn't change the result. We just have to regroup and get ready, because Lincoln and Rice certainly won't have any sympathy for us."
The game started on a somber note, as in the junior varsity game preceding the varsity contest, Christ the King sophomore Maurice Barrow fell awkwardly on his neck and hit his head hard on the floor. Barrow, who was wheeled off on a stretcher, appeared to be moving his extremities as he left the court but writhing in pain.
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