FRESH MEADOWS, NY - The downside to youth is you don't fear things that you should.
The upside to youth is you don't fear things that older people may fear. Therefore, it didn't matter to Bishop Loughlin that the Christ the King Royals have a future Division I player, a hold on the #1 spot in the NYCHoops.net rankings and the #1 seed in the Brooklyn/Queens Diocesan playoffs.
"These kids are fearless," said Loughlin Head Coach Edwin Gonzalez. "We knew we could play with [Christ the King] because both times we lost to them [during the regular season] the games were close. It's tough to beat a team three times."
The Lions hung tough with the Royals for three quarters, before outscoring them 25-18 in the fourth quarter and pulling off 74-67 upset win that didn't seem as close as the final score suggests.
"We knew the third time would be the charm," said point guard Kevin Ravanell, the Lions' lone senior starter, with confidence.
Confidence was arguably Loughlin's best weapon, as they were the hungrier team from tip to buzzer. Playing like the youngest kid on the playground with something to prove, the underclassmen-laden Lions got widespread production throughout the game. Ravanell set the tone. 6'3" sophomore off-guard Khadeen Carrington added to the charge. Fellow soph, Lavar Harewood, gave Loughlin a spark off the bench. But most impressive was the Lions' gritty, smart, and relentless defense - a defense that stymied UCONN-bound Omar Calhoun until the final moments of the game.
"We really wanted to key on Calhoun and [Jon] Severe," divulged Coach Gonzalez. "I told my guys that those two guys weren't gonna beat us. We executed that game plan."
Calhoun shot a frigid 4-19 though three quarters and a not much better 7-24 for the game, but the bigger surprise was how he got his 17 points (which were still CTK's team high). Only one came from his stomping ground of the charity stripe, where he didn't go until the fourth quarter and where he went 1-2 for the game. Severe, on the other hand, kept the Royals alive and managed to get off an handful of treys while Jordan Fuchs worked the inside. But CTK's main bane was in the form of an effort that seemed subdued in comparison to that of the Lions. Disjointed offense in the second half crippled the Royals, as bad shot selection and blown lay-ups kept them from making a charge. Meanwhile, the Lions kept defending, fighting, and above all, believing.
"We didn't even think about the losses during the regular season; the regular season is like scrimmages to us," said Ravanell, who took a brilliant charge on Fuchs in the fourth quarter to put the Lions into the bonus with a 57-52 lead. "The playoffs are what count."
While in the bonus, Carrington made the Royals pay. Although his 8-13 showing from the stripe in the fourth quarter wasn't stellar, each shot inched the Lions one step closer to victory. Conversely, CTK struggled from the line all game, partly due to the only people in the gym younger than the Loughlin players themselves. Loughlin's noisy grade school contingent made sure to distract the Royals during every free throw attempt - the Royals shot an ice cold 6-16 from the stripe. One can argue the effect screaming children has on one's concentration. Call it youth coming together for a cause, call it the hungrier and better team pulling off the win, call it an upset, or call it a subpar game from Christ the King, but one thing's certain - the slept-on all season Loughlin is as dangerous as anyone.
"Our whole season has been up and down," said Coach Gonzalez. "We've been down and fought back and this youth is great. We knew that sooner or later we'd pull one off and this is a great one to pull off."
Carrington's game high 24 points paced the Lions, while Ravanell, Harewood, and Elisha Boone added 10 each. Severe scored 16 points for Christ the King and Fuchs added 14.
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