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Sweet redemption for Rice vs. CK

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Suddenly, the Royals were down by 10 with 2:58 left and everyone in the packed Christ the King gym thought: Here comes another dramatic comeback.But a year after surrendering an 11-point lead with 1:12 left, this Rice team wouldn't panic down the stretch, beating the Royals, 66-51, Friday night in Middle Village.This time the Raiders played with poise, this time their best players - their three seniors - dominated.UConn-bound Curtis Kelly had 21 points and 20 rebounds, Edgar Sosa, who is heading to Louisville, had 16 points and Kashif Pratt added 19 for Rice (11-5, 7-2), which snapped a three-game losing streak to Christ the King (16-3, 8-2) and evened the season series at 1-1."I think I learned a lot from last year," Sosa said. "It was like the same predicament that it was today. We were up, we got happy and they came back and won. This year, we got a little happy but I calmed the team down. 'Let's make free throws, let's pass the ball.' And we won."But while this Christ the King rally fell short, it was the Royals' play in the second and third quarters that did them in. After racing out in the first quarter, CK struggled in the second quarter, scoring just six points and trailed 26-22 at the break."It was just an off night," said Hampton, who had 12 points. "I'm not going to make any excuses or say there's one particular thing that beat us. We just had a bad night."After NC State-bound Larry Davis (17 points) brought the Royals to within 31-29, Rice closed out the third quarter on a 16-2 run and led 47-31 heading into the fourth quarter on a Kelly putback at the buzzer."In the second and third quarters, that's where they really outplayed us," Christ the King coach Bob Oliva said. "We can't play catch up like that, that's miracle stuff.""Let's give all the credit to Rice tonight," he added. "They played great."Christ the King started its comeback when Davis went 3-of-4 from the foul line after Edgar Sosa picked up his fourth foul on a technical for jawing with Davis - the third technical of the heated game. The Royals went on an 11-3 run to get within 54-44."We didn't give it up at the end," Kelly said.In the first meeting this year, Christ the King rallied to beat Rice, 50-47, at Gaucho Gym Jan. 20. Both teams believe there will be a third meeting in the playoffs."We're going to meet them in the playoffs," Kelly said. "It ain't over. We're going to meet them."Said Davis: "I'm pretty sure we're going to see them again."Reach Sports Editor Dylan Butler by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 143.

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