Middle Village (N.Y.) Christ the King, ranked No. 83 in the most recent RivalsHigh Top 100 boys basketball rankings, had a lot of energy Sunday afternoon, as it faced No. 23 New York (N.Y.) Rice, the top-ranked team in the region, at home.
The star-studded game seemed to be equally as focused on the players on the hardwood as it was on the famous individuals in the crowd. The court was packed with Division I coaches, musicians, and current and former NBA superstars, as the two powerhouses engaged in a physical, uphill battle.
But Christ the King proved to be king of the hill as it upset Rice, 60-52, despite a furious late rally by the top-ranked Rice squad in the game's final minutes.
Christ the King seemed to be more in tuned with the game than Rice was in its early going, so much so that by the 1:55 mark of the first quarter, the Royals had exploded to a 13-4 lead.
It was a lead that the Royals would not relinquish for the rest of the contest, as the team was relentless from all points on the floor - perimeter to the paint.
At the 6:31 mark of the second quarter, the squads were still at the same point-differential, 15-6. On a basket by Dominykas Milka, the Royals were up by 11 points. Attempting to prevent another basket, Rice's Kadeem Jack made his second block of the game with 5:12 remaining in the first half on a shot by Christ the King's Omar Calhoun. However, the Royals still regained the 11-point margin on another bucket.
Rice became a bit rattled with the early CTK surge and turned up the defense. However, Royals forward Maurice Barrow (16 points) got off a jumper and drew the foul with 2:28 remaining before the close of the first half. Though Barrow missed the extra opportunity, the Royals went up, 21-8.
Jermaine Sanders (20 points) fought to get some offense flowing for Rice with a turnaround bucket in the paint and later with a 3-pointer to make the score, 25-15, with about 25 seconds to go. However, at the buzzer, Terrance "T.J." Curry (15 points) drained a 3-pointer of his own to give his squad a 28-15 lift at the close of the half.
"(Curry) played great defensively and made shots," CTK head coach Joe Arbitello said.
Usual Raiders scoring contributor, Jack, could not get a decent shot down and struggled to aid Sanders on the offensive end, as CTK played man-to-man defense for the entire game.
"I thought our team defense (gave us the edge), throughout (the game)," Arbitello said.
Calhoun, who added 11 points, echoed his coach's sentiments.
"Being aggressive on defense full court allowed us to push the tempo early and get some easy baskets," he said.
In the third quarter, Jack started off strong in the paint on the defensive end, swatting away a few more CTK shot attempts. But, Jack, who seemed to lose confidence in his offensive abilities, was still not putting points on the board or in the record books. Christ the King had surged on a 13-5 run from the start of the third period that put the Royals up by 21 points, 41-20, by the 2:22 mark.
After another 3-pointer by Calhoun, Christ the King pushed the lead to 27 points, 49-22, in the opening minutes of the fourth.
Jack, who was offensively quiet during the first three quarters, quickly answered with his first field goal of the contest around the 6:30 mark and brought the game within 25 points. Raiders' forward Shane Southwell aided in the 11-0 run that Jack sparked, resulting in Rice closing the gap a bit to 49-33.
But the Royals quickly responded with a few unanswered baskets by Curry and Calhoun, and the lead was again 20, at 53-33.
By the 1:33 mark of the fourth quarter, Rice's ability to stage a late comeback became evident as the squad brought the game within 10 points. The run, which included a spectacular four-point play by Sanders and a few Rice baskets in transition, made the score 55-45.
Down the stretch, Rice was able to close the margin to as little as six points, 58-52, on another 3-pointer by Sanders with 12.7 seconds remaining in regulation. But the contest came to a close on a full-court outlet pass by Christ the King to seal it with a lay-in.
Jack, who finally warmed up in the last phase, scored all 10 of his points in the fourth quarter.
Among those in attendance at the game were Louisville and Florida head coaches Rick Pitino and Billy Donovan. Former New York Knicks basketball player Walt "Clyde" Frazier served as an announcer, while current Knicks center David Lee and some NY Knicks dancers were also in attendance. Deejay Funkmaster Flex provided music for the excited crowd, while hip-hop artists Fabolous, who performed at halftime, and The Game were also said to be present.
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