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CTK Royals upend St. Raymond’s, 71-54, for CHSAA state crown

The Christ the King varsity boys’ basketball team got a second chance and did not squander it.

Playing St. Raymond’s for the second time in five days, the Royals took it to the Ravens Sunday in the CHSAA Class A state finals, winning 71-54, and advancing to the state Federation Class A semifinals Friday.

St. Ray’s defeated Christ the King, 75-69, for the vaunted city crown March 12 before a packed and rocking Fordham gymnasium. But a new format for the CHSAA state tournament allowed the Royals one more crack at the Ravens.

“We’re going.” said a jubilant Christ the King head coach Bob Oliva. “I give a lot of credit to St. Raymond’s. They are the city champs. I’d give anything in the world to be the city champ. But right now, under a new format that was implemented this year, we got an opportunity to extend our season. And we’re going to extend it, luckily. We’re going to go to Glens Falls and represent the entire CHSAA of New York state. We’re going to hope to do as well as we can.”

A seemingly sluggish St. Raymond’s (26-4) fell behind early and never fully got into the swing of things. Christ the King (25-7) scored the first six points of the game and the Ravens didn’t score until Syracuse-bound Louie McCroskey put home a shot 3:58 into the first quarter.

A three by Japhet McNeil, who was a woeful 0-for-13 from the field in the title game, and two baskets by backcourt mate Mitchell Beauford gave the Royals a 13-7 lead after one.

“I had to redeem myself,” said McNeil, who finished with 27 points. “My first goal was to get the win for my team. My second goal was to redeem myself ’cause in the championship game I shot 0-for-13. I just didn’t want to go out like that.”

St. Ray’s went on an 8-2 run to open the second quarter to tie the game at 15-15, but CK responded with eight straight to re-establish command of the game. The lead grew to 10 before the half on a bucket by Brian Beckford, but St. Ray’s scored the final four points of the second to trail by six at the break, 27-21.

“How do you remotivate yourself to beat a team you already beat in the city championship?” said St. Ray’s head coach Oliver Antigua. “If you ask me, they had all the motivation in the world to want to beat us. We took away their dream. They played with a purpose, they played with passion and we didn’t. Maybe that’s my fault. I didn’t prepare the team well enough to come out ready to play.”

Still within striking distance, St. Ray’s seemed to lose any steam it had in the third quarter. CK got the lead back to double digits with the first two baskets of the half and extended the lead to 15 on a three by McNeil with 2:45 remaining in the third. Another three by McNeil made the score 49-31 with just more than a minute left in the third.

The onslaught continued in the fourth, as a sparse and at times indifferent crowd sat stunned as the mighty Ravens stumbled through their final game.

“We prepared so well for this after the last game,” Oliva said. “We broke down more tape; it was an effort of my entire staff to come up with everything. It’s tough to beat a team three times around. People say that, I guess it’s true.

“I’m so happy for these guys today,” he added. “Individually, each one of them did their job. It’s redemption, it’s satisfaction, it’s just great.”

Controversy over the new format, which essentially gave CK a second chance to make the state championship where in years past the city winner automatically advanced to the state finals and the loser went home, was not used as an excuse by St. Ray’s after the loss.

“We didn’t play hard enough to win,” said McCroskey, who finished with 15 points and 8 rebounds. “Things just don’t work out the way you want it sometimes. I could sit and cry all day and be like ‘we shoulda, coulda, woulda,’ but it don’t work out like that. I got my head up high. We tried, but it just didn’t work out that way.

“We’re going to root for them because they are our city team,” he added. “They just came out and did their job and we couldn’t do nothing about it.”

Oliva was not about to look a gift horse in the mouth, either.

“I’m just very elated,” he said. “If you go back three, four weeks ago and tell me I was going to Glens Falls, I would have thought I was going to go as a city champ. This is no back-door play or nothing. This was straight up. We just were prepared for them today.”

Sophomore guard Chris Martin added 15 points, while Beauford chipped in 13. Brian Williams finished with 7 rebounds and 6 points. Ricky Torres was the only other St. Ray’s player in double figures with 11.

The Royals will face Long Island Lutheran in the state Federation Class A semifinals Friday with a possible date against two-time PSAL champs Lincoln, which faces Rochester-McQuaid, in the finals. The last time CK went to Glens Falls was in 1995 when the team led by future NBA stars Erick Barkley, Lamar Odom and Speedy Claxton lost to a Railsplitters team led by Stephon Marbury.

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

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