MIDDLE VILLAGE, NY- It takes time for young teams to develop, but when they do watch out. That seems to be what's going on right now with Christ the King as the Lady Royals struggled to start the season against a tough non-league slate, but the loaded schedule is paying dividends now as was demonstrated with their 51-43 win over South Shore at the Apparel Challenge on Sunday.
The thought before the season according to Royals head coach Bob Mackey was to load things up early on to prepare his young group of girls for what was to come, something he felt was paying off leading up into Sunday's game.
"I wanted a real tough opening weekend in Virginia, and then we came back and got to Arizona, and with all that I felt we grew up a lot," Mackey stated.
He got exactly what he wanted as even though it was a slow start to the season with some losses against national competition they were more prepared and ready for Sunday's big matchup against the Lady Vikings because of it.
It was a slow start for both teams though as the early 11am start time after Saturday's snowstorm seemed to have everybody off their games. South Shore took a 7-4 lead after one, and built on their lead as the second quarter began, getting it up to as big as 20-10 with 3:08 to go in the half.
Far from what Mackey and the Royals wanted as Brandy Thomas '18 admitted, but she was confident that if they stuck to the game plan that they weren't out of the game.
"We just had to limit the turnovers and handle the ball and run our game," Thomas said. " We always keep going. We never think it's ending until it actually ends."
That mindset did allow Christ the King to right the ship as the half started to come to a close as Klarke Sconiers '19 was able to do an excellent job controlling the class, while Thomas and Natalija Marshall '20 were able to score going to the rim and get the South Shore lead at the half down to 22-19.
It was a slow start for Selena Philoxy '17, the Seton Hall bound big for the Lady Vikings, as she struggled against the bigger Christ the King frontline, and her struggles seemed to become more widespread for South Shore as the 3rd began as with 5:56 to go in the quarter the Royals took their first lead at 25-23 when Thomas scored on a 2 on 1 fastbreak.
The lead propelled up to 7 for Christ the King late in the 3rd before South Shore off a timeout with 3:28 left rallied to go on a 12-2 run to close the period with Destiny Philoxy '18 and Valena Hickerson '17 each connecting on shots from the outside to see the Lady Vikings go into the 4th with a 35-32 lead.
Young teams don't always close out games well, but the 4th quarter was where Christ the King really showed the maturity that Mackey wanted to see out of them as they were able to deny shots down low, and dictate the pace for themselves with Thomas doing a great job attacking the rim, while the interior players for the Royals were able to get second and third chances to see them retake the lead with 5:12 to go in the game, a lead they would never relinquish.
It was as close to a perfect quarter for Christ the King on both ends of the floor, and while he wasn't happy with much of what he saw the first 3 quarters, Mackey noted that as long as they closed the game well, he would take it.
"I was disappointed in the defense. I thought the turnovers were ridiculous," Mackey stated. "It's nice to finish at the end, I'd rather play 1 good quarter at the end than 1 good one in the beginning."
They did get that great quarter late and off the backs of that they were able to take down the defending PSAL champions in South Shore, 51-43, in what was no doubt a statement making win.
Thomas was the lone Christ the King player in double figures as she scored 16 points to lead the Royals, while Sconiers added 7 points and 10 rebounds in what was a dominant inside performance.
For South Shore they also got 16 points from the young Philoxy, while the older Philoxy was limited to just 9 points in what was the first loss for the Lady Vikings against New York competition this season.
It was a statement making win for various reasons for Christ the King. Constantly thought of as too young by others, Thomas hopes that this game shows that their youth doesn't mean anything anymore. They were able to get a big win on a big stage, and she hopes it just leads to more wins going forward.
"I think we proved ourselves today. We are young, and maybe we don't have that much experience with only have 1 senior, but we pulled it through today. People keep doubting us and hopefully we will keep winning."