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CK boys best L.I. Lutheran, advance to state finals

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GLENS FALLS - Bob Oliva remembers exactly where he was the last time the Christ the King boys' basketball team played Lincoln for the state Federation Class A championship.

"I was standing right here, outside of this locker room talking to Stephon [Marbury]," the Christ the King coach said. "I thought we'd get them that game."

Oliva gets a second crack at the Railsplitters Saturday at 5 p.m. as Christ the King defeated Long Island Lutheran, 74-58, at the Glens Falls Civic Center Friday night.

Led by Sebastian Telfair and Stewart Graddick, who scored 15 points apiece, the Railsplitters defeated McQuaid-Jesuit, ranked No. 2 nationally by USA Today, 57-44.

"It's two teams from New York City, one from Brooklyn and one from Queens," said Christ the King sophomore Chris Martin. "They're alright, but I think we're the better team. We just have to come out strong."

That's something Christ the King (26-7) didn't do against Long Island Lutheran. But thanks to the sharp-shooting of Martin, who buried three straight three-pointers, the Royals awoke out of their early funk to take a 34-23 late in the second quarter.

"They were concentrating on Japhet [McNeil] and Mitchell [Beauford] and they left me open," said Martin, who had 14 points, 4 rebounds and 3 steals. "The first one I got a lucky bounce, but the second one I just shot it."

"Those were some big shots. I call him 'super-soph'," added Japhet McNeil. "In about two years he's going to be a superstar. He played big for us today."

Playing big for Long Island Lutheran (13-9) was 6-foot-10 Andrea Crosariol from Italy, who recovered from a hairline fracture in his left foot earlier in the year to lead the Crusaders with 16 points and 16 rebounds.

But Christ the King's speed in the backcourt was too much for Long Island Lutheran to handle. McNeil had 5 of the Royals 13 steals, leading to several easy layups by Beauford (11 points) and Justin Marshall (14 points).

"They shot [56 percent] from the field in the first half and we had a couple of turnovers that were careless where we tried to take it too fast and that exasperated it because they knocked down their threes," said Long Island Lutheran coach Ronn Hall.

Long Island Lutheran rallied in the third quarter and trailed 41-34 on Crosariol's dunk, but McNeil, who had 16 points and 8 assists, ignited an 11-2 run that was capped by a Martin layup that put the Royals ahead, 52-36, at the end of the third quarter.

Christ the King cruised in the fourth quarter to set up a game for the Federation title and bragging rights of New York City.

The last time the two teams met, the Royals team featuring Lamar Odom, Erick Barkley and Speedy Claxton lost to a Lincoln team led by Marbury, Telfair's older cousin, 55-52, in 1995. The last time Christ the King won the Federation 'A' title was in 1989, when it beat Stevenson, 80-57.

"It's going to be real fun," McNeil said. "It will be their good guards vs. our good guard."

Reach Associate Sports Editor Dylan Butler by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 143

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