BRONX, NY - Christ the King Coach Bob Mackey was concerned going into Friday's game against South Shore in the Gauchos Mecca Challenge Tournament at the Gauchos Gym in the Bronx.
His team, ranked #3 by NYCHoops.net, had very little time on the court together since they last played 7 days ago, and he didn't exactly know what kind of performance he would get. While it was sluggish to start, the Royals did come on late, holding the Vikings to just 3 points in the 4th quarter to take the 49-32 victory.
In the past week because of snow and the boys basketball team, the Christ the King girls have only practiced for 1 hour together in the past 6 days. Mackey, who knew he was going up against a formidable foe in South Shore, felt like his team was deeply affected by the layoff.
"The break we had definitely showed," Mackey said. "We looked slow and methodical, and it took us a while to get our legs."
Sophomore guard Dominique Toussaint echoed the coach's sentiments, and felt as if this was one of the tougher games to prepare for.
"It was extremely tough because you just don't know how well your body will respond to not practicing, but we had to just push through it," Toussaint said.
Push through it they did, but it didn't start out easy. The start for both teams was less than what they desired.
While South Shore dominated the glass early on, but they didn't finish on their chances. 2nd and 3rd chance opportunities kept going by the wayside in the early going when the Vikings had the chance to grab a commanding lead, something that South Shore coach Anwar Gladden knew his team would regret later.
"We weren't finishing. We negated the positive of all the rebounds, so it's like they didn't matter," Gladden said,
South Shore had the early lead with Brianna Fraser and Teanna Henderson controlling the glass, but 4 late points in the half by Sierra Calhoun ended up giving the Royals a 22-20 lead at the half.
The low scoring half was unexpected, and while the Royals had the excuse of not being together in practice for the past week, Calhoun still was surprised by what she saw on the first 16 minutes,
"I wasn't really expecting that. I was not expecting that slow of a game with not many points being scored, but we were still up by 2 so our goal was just to extend the lead," Calhoun said.
While the extension of the lead didn't come right away, it eventually did come for Christ the King. Jordan Washington hit on a pair of FT's for South Shore to make it a 30-29 lead for CK with 2:10 to go in the 3rd quarter when the Royals turned up the intensity, with a change of defense.
"We went zone and took the press off in the 3rd. I didn't want to do that, but we did, and the zone slowed them down and made them throw up bad shots, so it was effective," Mackey said.
It truly was effective, as the rest of the way South Shore scored just 3 points, hoisting up bad shots and not getting into any offensive rhythm.
It was still tight in the 4th at 38-32 when Kristen Drogsler bit a big three for the Royals, and that was followed up by back to back slashing baskets for Toussaint to extend the lead to double digits for CK. seeing them fully take control.
Toussaint was big in the 4th scoring 7 points in the quarter, though she did admit nerves in a couple of her big buckets.
"All I kept thinking, I better not made a mistake because my coach is gonna kill me," Toussaint said with a smile.
She didn't, and the Royals finished the game in an impressive 19-3 run to blow past a very game South Shore team, 49-32.
Calhoun led all scorers pouring in 17 points for Christ the King, with Toussaint adding 11 as well.
Henderson paced South Shore in the loss with 8 points, while Fraser added 7, and Malika Chisolm had 5.
Gladden felt his size would be a big part of the game, but it was really kept in check for the most part by the CK zone, and the draught at the end of the game is something the Vikings coach said concerned him heading into the game.
"We went on a scoring drought. We were worried coming in about that happening, and it haunted us, but that's why you have to make your foul shots," Gladden said.
For Christ the King, it's another notable win in their belt, taking down one of the PSAL favorites, and a team they may see again in Albany in the Federation championship game in March, a fact that Mackey didn't shy away from.
"They know that already, but I told them at the end of practice yesterday. Trust me, Ed Grezinsky is thinking that far ahead, Anwar Gladden is thinking that far ahead, you have to, so yes we discussed it," Mackey said.
He added that he feels a win like this over South Shore does give his team a little mental edge the rest of the way, feeling that each game they win, his team gets a bit better, and adds a bit more confidence.
It doesn't end here either for CK. The Royals have games the next two days against strong competition, but Mackey says the team thrives on that, and it provides a great test for his group going forward.
"We have played a lot of really good teams out of state. Today was a good team in state. Tomorrow we play a good Jersey team, and Sunday we go to Philly, so I say let's get it on and see what we got," Mackey explained.
Because of the teams busy schedule, Mackey didn't want to celebrate or talk about this game for too long, saying it's time to look forward, but at least for a minute, he was able to reflect, and smile.
"The end of the game and the final score is all that matters, so I have to be happy with the win."