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Over the past few weeks Omar Cook has been playing some of the best basketball in the city. Whenever Christ the King is faced with a critical situation, Cook gets his team out of it. But against St. Francis Prep on Friday night the Royals faced an unfamiliar scenario when the senior point guard fouled out with 28 seconds left in regulation. The Royals had to win without their best player and they did in overtime, 66-61, at Christ the King High School.
"Four weeks ago we had a meeting and I told the guys if they don't stop watching Omar play, I was going to start charging admission," Christ the King head coach Bob Oliva said. "Tonight, everybody stepped up."
"Whenever we are in a tight situation Omar is the reason we come out of it," senior forward Mike Radziejewski said. "This time everybody stepped up. We have the players to do it in a clutch situation and we proved it today. This just boosts everyone's confidence."
Mihail Malik stripped Prep's Kevin Fitzgerald at halfcourt and went in for the layup with 1:46 left in overtime to give Christ the King a 60-59 lead they wouldn't relinquish.
"It feels real good to see everyone step up," Cook said. "It was incredible to see them win the game with me on the bench. It gave them confidence."
With 28 seconds remaining in regulation Christ the King led, 53-50, as Prep's Steve Hartwig was at the foul line. After Hartwig missed his first free throw, Cook was called for a technical foul, sending him to the bench with five fouls. The St. John's signee walked towards his bench telling Oliva he didn't say anything.
"The referee told me Omar waved at him," a livid Oliva said. "With 28 seconds left in a great game they give him a tech for that."
"All I did was stare him down," said Cook, who had 10 points before exiting. "He said I waved at him. I didn't. I just shook my head."
Hartwig made his second free throw and Kevin O'Connell hit one of two on the technical foul shots. Rashad Bell hit one of two free throws on the next possession to tie the game at 53 with 10 seconds left prompting the St. Francis Prep fans on hand to chant, "Where is Omar?"
Anthony Negreanu had a chance to win it for the Royals as time expired in regulation, but couldn't connect on a three-pointer. Over the final 28 seconds Prep only went 3-for-6 from the foul line."
They handed us an opportunity to win it and we didn't," St. Francis Prep head coach Tim Leary said. "They didn't turn it over and made plays."
Fitzgerald opened the overtime for Prep with four quick points, but Radziejewski buried a three-pointer to cut the lead to 57-56. Radziejewski came up huge with Cook on the bench, scoring 23 points, including seven in overtime. He also went 4-for-4 from the free throw line in the final minute to ice the win.
"They scored four points right away and it looked like we were dead," Oliva said. "We get a stop and a three by Mike and that's the key. He (Radziejewski) had the game of his career. What a time for him to step up."
Zach Williams was also instrumental in the win providing words of encouragement for his teammates.
"I just gathered them all up and said you have to play this game," Williams said. "And I told Mike, you and I are the senior leaders and we have to step up our game. Mike made the difference in the game tonight," said Williams, who scored 18 points.
The lead went back-and-forth for most of the game. Christ the King took the lead after the first quarter when Cook nailed an open three with four seconds left for a 15-13 lead. Prep (14-5, 4-3 CHSAA Brooklyn/Queens) took their largest lead of the game with under three minutes remaining in the second quarter when Bell hit a long-range jumper to cap a 7-0 run and extend the lead to 29-21.
The Royals (15-4, 8-1 CHSAA Brooklyn/Queens) cut the halftime deficit to 29-27 after Cook scored on a drive to the basket. Radziejewski sparked the Royals in the third quarter with 12 points, including a three with two seconds left in the quarter to put his team up 44-40 after three.
Hartwig led Prep with 14 points and Bell scored 11 points.
Notes: Cook was named to the USA Basketball junior select team earlier this week. The St. John's signee will play with 11 other high school all-stars against an international select team in the NABC Nike Hoop Summit April 2 in Indianapolis.
Cook, who is averaging 19.2 points per game and 12 assists per game for the Royals, will play with future St. John's teammate Darius Miles, a 6-foot-9 forward from East St. Louis, as a part of the team. Cook, who holds six Christ the King school records -
©2000 Community Newspaper Group
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