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BRIARWOOD, NY - After an exciting semifinal round, most thought it would be hard pressed for Saturday's CHSAA Freshman Championship between the St. Raymond Ravens and the Christ the King Royals to top both games put together. The spectators in the standing room only gym at Archbishop Molloy HS would beg to differ.
After a heart pounding hour and a half rollercoaster ride, the Royals would come out with a win led by their commander and chief Jose Alvarado.
Saddled with foul trouble late in the game and boinking free-throws early in the game, the savvy point guard somehow scored a game high 28 points to go along with numerous assists to will his team to a 79-74 victory.
"On the freshman level, when you have a great point guard, it masks a lot of problems," said Christ the King Head Coach Greg Lemko. "You just say, here's the ball. Take us to the promise land and that's what he did."
The game started out with all the freshmen infused with a volatile mixture of nerves, youth and adrenaline and as a consequence, sloppy Willy nilly play ensued. The Ravens were ahead 7-2 early until Pierce Bozcar (3 points) nailed a trey with 5 minutes left in the opening quarter that closed the gap to a deuce.
St. Ray's was unyielding on both ends of the court. A steal by Bryan Ortiz (4 points), hustle plays by Hegel Augustin (14 points) and mid-range buckets by big man Anthony Putman (6 points) kept the Ravens out in front by a point after one quarter as Christ the King struggled from the charity stripe.
Donald Flores (18 points),who knocked down 28 points during the semifinals, was more of a facilitator early in the contest but the Royals were gaining momentum and at the 7 minute mark of the second quarter, Augustin tied the game at 18. The Ravens would regain the lead but would find themselves continuously fighting off a Christ the King onslaught. Tied again at 20, Isaiah Washington (28 points) would once again put St. Ray's on top by two but LaQuan Robinson (eight points) would hit a momentum shifting three-ball, giving the Royals their first lead, 23-22 with 4:31
Alvarado increased the Royals lead and by the half, the Raven would stumble and were in the hole, 42-25.
Although the lead seemed comfortable, Lemko knew better. "We told [our team] at half time, if I were [St. Ray's] I'd try to take Jose Alvarado out and that's what they did. We got good shots, We just didn't make them. We knew that they were gonna be tough coming back."
Maykel Valera (10 points) and Washington were powerful inside as St. Raymond began to score and shut down the Royals offense with a smothering defense. Alvarado picked up his fourth foul with 2 minutes left in the quarter as Flores cut Christ the Kings advantage to five points. Unable to score a field goal throughout the majority of the third quarter, Washington tied the game at 52 to start the final quarter.
Cai-el Smith (14 points) and Augustin put Christ the King back on top but the Ravens kept hanging around. Midway through the fourth, Washington drew a foul and had a chance to take the lead but missed two free-throws. Christ the King was still ahead by a point and was anyone's game.
Anyone's' game if you didn't have Alvarado on your team. The point guard took his game to another level, scoring coast-to-coast on a few occasions and knocking down clutch perimeter shots. He also penetrated, drew foul and suddenly found the ability to knock down free-throws when they mattered most. He did it all in the fourth quarter with the burden of four fouls to boot.
"[Alvarado's] tough," said Lemko." Things don't get him rattled. He can score. He can pass. He can defend. He's tenacious. He's just a complete player."
A blocked shot and a coast-to-coast slam dunk by Kelejuan Brown-Ferguson (8 points) late in the fourth quarter signaled the beginning of the end for the St. Ray's. The Royals would go on to win the CHSAA Freshman Championship by five points.