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Bosco’s Corner: Second chance earns CTK trip upstate

Bob Oliva knew what was coming and wanted to duck out of the way as soon as possible. “You’re going to ask me about the format,” said the Christ the King boys’ basketball coach following the Royals’ sound thumping of the St. Raymond’s Ravens in the CHSAA state championship game Sunday. “I don’t want to talk about the format.”

The “format” Oliva referred to had me up in the Bronx last weekend to watch the Royals take on the Ravens for the second time in five days. On March 12, St. Ray’s blew a 21-point lead but held on to top CK in the Intersectional — or city — championship, 75-69.

But changes to the CHSAA state tournament, fought for by league basketball commissioner Paul Gilvary, who is the head coach of the Holy Cross High School team, allowed CK another chance to beat St. Ray’s.

For the uninformed, St. Mary’s lost to Christ the King in the CHSAA state semifinals Friday, 78-74, forcing a rematch of the city title game.

Gilvary spelled out the format to me after CK’s win Sunday.

“We proposed to the state committee that all the diocesan champs be treated equally and that they all be given a chance to play for the state championship,” Gilvary said. “Christ the King is the ‘A’ Diocesan champion of Brooklyn/Queens and St. Ray’s is the ‘A’ Diocesan champion of the Archdiocese of New York. St. Mary’s has no more claim to playing in the state Catholic tournament than Christ the King or St. Raymond’s. For us to eliminate one of those teams from the state playoffs because of a game that’s played outside of the state playoff format, it will be giving St. Mary’s a bye right to the state finals. That made no sense.”

In years past the city title winner advanced automatically to the CHSAA state finals to play the Rockville Centre champ or automatically qualified for the state Federation tournament in Glens Falls if there was no other ‘A’ team to play.

This new format essentially makes the city title meaningless in the race for Glens Falls. Had both the Archdiocese champs (St. Ray’s) and the Brooklyn/Queens champs (Christ the King) lost during the city playoffs prior to the title game, they still would have been eligible for the CHSAA state crown, at least according to Gilvary’s explanation.

But everyone still acknowledges that St. Ray’s won the biggest game of the year.

“My personal opinion is that in this city, because of the history and the tradition of the championship, I think that the coaches and players probably put more emphasis on [the city title] than on the state championship,” Gilvary said.

Oliva agreed, somewhat.

“Winning the city championship in the Catholic high school league, that’s what we really strive for,” he said. “We didn’t win it. We got an opportunity to do this. We’re going to make every effort to win the state Federation championship.

“I don’t know if it’s fair or not, but it’s the format we’re playing,” the coach added. “When in Rome, you do as the Romans do.”

St. Raymond’s was gracious in defeat, even though many in attendance in the less-than-capacity crowd Sunday thought the game to be redundant and unnecessary.

“We lost,” said St. Ray’s head coach Oliver Antigua. “We caught Christ the King on a bad day. They didn’t play well in the city championship game and we didn’t play well today.”

In fairness to the Ravens, who beat the Royals twice this season prior to Sunday, it had to be an almost insurmountable task to get up for the Catholic state championship game. They had just defeated the Royals in the biggest, most anticipated game of the year before a packed and raucous audience filled to the rafters with St. Ray’s faithful.

But by the same token, Antigua and his players knew they would have to play another game to win the CHSAA state title and advance to Glens Falls, if not against Christ the King, then against St. Mary’s. Whether they weren’t prepared to play or CK simply blew them off the floor can be debated, but no one made any excuses after the game, not Antigua or his players.

“I don’t know,” Oliva said when asked if he thought his team had beaten a primed Ravens squad. “I don’t know if they got the best us in the first quarter of the last game. They were there. All the names were there. That was them. I don’t think they played that well, obviously. You don’t beat a team like that by 17 points. They haven’t lost like that all year.”

In the city title game St. Ray’s ran out to a 12-0 lead early and though they gave it up in the second half, had enough left in the tank to pull out the win. Sunday, however, it was CK that took control early and never let St. Ray’s have the lead.

CK did it by pounding the boards, forcing turnovers and falling in line behind Japhet McNeil. McNeil, who missed all 13 of his shots in the city championship game in perhaps the worst performance of his career, bounced back to lead all scorers with 27 Sunday.

Bottom line is, two teams played Sunday, one team won. Scream about the format, scream that St. Ray’s was banged up, scream for the sake of screaming, but it won’t change the fact that Christ the King is going to Glens Falls.

Right or wrong.

Reach Sports Editor Anthony Bosco by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 130.

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