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The Butler Did It

Tip-off? Did he say tip-off?Sure there's some football game being played in Florida Sunday and I think its pre-game show started about two hours ago, but the game I'm talking about, the game I can't wait for, is the CHSAA boys' basketball game between Rice and Christ the King. The two favorites to meet for the city title will take the floor at the Gauchos Gym in the Bronx at 4 p.m. although if the buzz is anything like it was when the two teams squared off Friday night at Christ the King, I'd recommend getting there very, very early. The rematch on Sunday might have trouble living up to Friday night's game, which is the early favorite for Game of the Year. Rice sauntered into Middle Village with a No. 2 national ranking and a perfect 15-0 record. The Royals were ranked No. 9 and had a record of 15-1, its lone blemish an early season loss to undefeated St. Mary's. It appeared that Rice, which controlled the game throughout, would leave undefeated. It had an 11-point lead with one minute left and then it happened. Chris Martin nailed a 3-pointer, then another and another. The Raiders were reeling and couldn't hit its free throws on the other end. Some in the capacity crowd had already hit the exits but a few who were still lurking about in the lobby rushed back into the gym. With Christ the King trailing 60-57 with 16 seconds left, Martin attempted his fourth 3-pointer, but that rimmed out. Akeem Gooding got the offensive rebound, the ball got swung around by the Christ the King bench and Larry Davis - who was the Royals most consistent player throughout - buried a corner three with 10 seconds left to send the game into overtime.Oh, but the drama wasn't done there. Davis gave the Royals their first lead since 2-0 on a fadeaway jumper with 1:04 left in overtime but Rice roared back and took a 68-67 lead on a 3-point play by Curtis Kelly. So who would step up to the hero for Christ the King? Would it be Martin with another 3-pointer? Or Davis with a mid-range jumper? It would be Gooding, showing just how deep the Royals are. After Davis was stopped on the baseline, Gooding grabbed the offensive board and went up strong from the right block. He was fouled by Joe Vines with 0.8 seconds remaining and buried both free throws to give CK the memorable win.There was nothing magical or special about the first two quarters. Both teams were tight and it showed. But those who were there remember the ending and the drama of overtime and that's carried the buzz throughout the weekend. It was talked about in the pressroom at Madison Square Garden before a very forgettable St. John's/Seton Hall game Saturday. And again at the Tom Crotty Memorial Classic at Carnesecca Arena Sunday and throughout the week on online message boards.Will Sunday's rematch live up to the hype? CK has leapfrogged Rice in USA Today's national rankings, moving to No. 6 while Rice dropped to No. 9. The Raiders rebounded quite nicely from their loss by pounding rival St. Raymond's, 66-47 in the Tom Crotty. Edgar Sosa, who went 1-for-4 from the foul line in the final minute, said he didn't sleep much after the loss. He acquitted himself nicely, scoring a game-high 23 points against the Ravens. Sunday's rematch could be the second of four games between the two teams. They very well could play for the city championship at Fordham in March and then again for the state CHSAA title. And if any of those games are anywhere near as dramatic as the first, high school hoops fans are in for some games that will surely be talked about with reverence down the road. Reach Sports Editor Dylan Butler by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 143.

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