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The Butler Did It: Two of city’s best battle it out on hardwood

It was a late season game between two of the city’s top boys’ basketball teams — Cardozo in the PSAL and St. Raymond’s in the CHSAA — with the emotion and atmosphere of a preseason scrimmage.

And while the two teams sleepwalked in front of a half-empty gym at St. Raymond’s for much of the game, which could very well be a preview of the Class A state Federation game next month in Glens Falls, there was one constant for the Ravens in Sunday’s 71-65 win: Brian Laing and Gavin Grant.

“I think they’re a great team. They have good quick guards and Theo Davis, who is a big-time talent inside, so I definitely think they’re capable of winning the city (PSAL championship),” St. Raymond’s coach Oliver Antigua said. “If we’re fortunate enough to take care of our business and have a chance to play upstate, I think it will be a hell of a rematch.”

Seton Hall-signee Laing scored a game-high 25 points and North Carolina State-bound Grant rebounded from a tough first half to add 18 points and 13 rebounds for a St. Raymond’s team coming off a tough loss at Molloy Friday night.

That same night Cardozo learned it earned the top seed in the citywide playoffs after beating rival Bayside for the Queens Borough championship a day earlier.

“I thought it would be a large crowd today for this game because they’re the No. 1 public school team and we’re a good team,” Laing said. “I thought it was an evenly matched game but we just kept on being consistent going into the post and came up with a big game.”

Cardozo (23-3) had a chance to put away the Ravens early, but a buzzer-beating three-pointer by Ricky Torres sent St. Raymond’s (13-4) into the second quarter tied at 14.

Six-foot-10 junior Davis (10 points) played one of his best games of the year, keeping the game close in the first half but the highly touted import from Toronto sat for much of the third quarter in foul trouble as the Ravens went on a 15-3 run to take a 56-45 lead at the end of three quarters.

“They were tough. They killed us in their half-court set, but when we ran we were able to get most of our points,” said Cardozo guard Nick Flagg, who scored a team-high 19 points.

Quietly, though, led by Flagg and Dwayne Johnson (10 points), Cardozo crept back into the game and got within 64-62 on a bucket by Vic Morris with 2:22 left.

But Davis missed consecutive chances to tie the game, and Torres found Laing for an explosive alley-oop that woke up the crowd and put the Judges away for good.

“It was a weird game,” Cardozo coach Ron Naclerio said. “You look up and you’re down 13 and you think the kids are going to get that much-needed loss to get the fire back in them, and all of a sudden it’s 9, 5, 3, 2 and one or two breaks there we might have gotten a victory.”

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

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