The stage is set for a classic. The CHSAA Class AA intersectional championship game is the first all-Queens city final in 30 years. And the two teams competing have serious history, too.
Christ the King beat Holy Cross twice in the regular season. Holy Cross was the victor when the pair met in the Brooklyn/Queens Diocesan semifinals. In their first meeting, CK senior Ryan Pearson sent the game into overtime with a left-handed, hook shot three-pointer as time expired. Royals coach Bob Oliva called it the lefty version of Christian Laettner's buzzer beater against Kentucky.
So, how could Pearson possibly top that Sunday at Fordham University in the 3 p.m. title game?
"Let's hope I don't need to do anything like that," the George Mason-bound forward said. "Let's hope we're ahead by more at the end."
Neither teams were favorites to make it to this point. Holy Cross was a strong underdog against Rice in the semifinals Wednesday at St. John's. When Christ the King played St. Raymond's in the quarterfinals, the game was thought of as a toss up.
But both prevailed. Holy Cross shocked Rice after a game-winning layup by senior guard Blaise Ffrench. Christ the King rode its stars - Pearson and senior guard Erving Walker - to a win against St. Ray's and used a balanced attack to eliminate Bishop Loughlin in the semifinals.
Essentially, this is a game that has it all. The stakes are high. Holy Cross has not won a city championship - or even made a final - since 1978. Christ the King is trying to repeat, but last season the Royals lost to Rice in the CHSAA state playoffs and were denied a trip to the state Federation tournament in Glens Falls. This season, the city winner goes right upstate.
There are plenty of stars in this one, too. Pearson and the Florida-bound Walker lead Christ the King. McDonald's All-American Sylven Landesberg is the driving force for Holy Cross. Both coaches - CK's Bob Oliva and Cross' Paul Gilvary - are two of the most respected in New York City.
It actually might come down to the role players, though. Ffrench was the hero for the Knights against Rice. Sophomore big man Roland Brown was huge in the Royals' win over Bishop Loughlin.
"I knew I had it in me," Brown said, "but I guess I didn't bring it out."
He'll be expected to let loose again Sunday. Gilvary will ask the same of his supporting players, Kayvon Roberts, Tim Beinert and Ernest Freeman. Don't count out Sean Johnson, Anthony Martin or Marion Smith making an impact for CK, either.
"It means a lot, two Queens teams," Pearson said. "I know we're going to put on a great show. It's going to be a great game."
Reach Associate Sports Editor Marc Raimondi by e-mail at mraimondi@
©2008 Community News Group
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