Calhoun leads shutdown

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BINGHAMTON, NY — Omar Calhoun’s reputation is built on the offensive end, as an elite scorer and potent three-point scorer. It’s why defending national basketball champion Connecticut successfully recruited the Brooklyn native, who is just the second Christ the King player to reach 1,000 points as a junior (Khalid Reeves is the other).

Though they fell short in the tournament championship matchup against Pennsylvania’s Chester High School team, Christ the King was in the STOP-DWI Holiday Classic championship game in part because of Calhoun’s lockdown defense in last week’s 76-65 semifinal victory over Wings Academy.

The 6-foot-4 seniorhounded Wings star Justin Jenkins from the opening tip to the final horn. While Jenkins scored a team-high 25 points, Calhoun did a fine job on him in the fourth quarter, when the Royals (4-1) pulled away by outscored Wings (10-1) 30-19.

“The fourth quarter is definitely crunch time. Defense is what wins games,” he said.

In the final quarter, he forced Jenkins into tough shots, denied him the ball, drew a five-second violation and blocked a three-point attempt.

“Those are little things that get you on the floor in college and take you a long way,” Calhoun said.

After Christ the King’s lone loss of the year, to two-time PSAL Class AA champion Boys & Girls, Calhoun spoke with Coach Joe Arbitello about guarding the opposition’s top threat. Kangaroos star Leroy “Truck” Fludd scored 23 points in the game and afterward talked about being the best player in the city.

“I wanted to make sure I’m guarding that guy,” Calhoun said. “If anyone’s trying to make a name against us, I want to make sure I get him.”

He was still a force on the offensive end, scoring a game-high 28 points on 9-of-15 shooting. Junior Isaiah Lewis followed with 21 points and Jon Severe scored 19 after a slow start. The three Division I prospects took turns making plays in the fourth quarter.

“That’s the beauty of this team and what I probably haven’t had in three years,” Arbitello said. “I’ve got three guys who can legitimately score the ball.”

With all that said, Wings led 26-19 late in the first half and the two teams were even at 50 entering the fourth quarter. But CK went on a 9-1 run to create breathing room. In that time, Calhoun managed to keep the ball out of Jenkins’ hands and his teammates misfired.

“We challenged Omar from earlier today,” Arbitello said. “Everybody’s saying this kid is a Division I player and I think he’s great — I don’t know how he doesn’t have any offers — but I said to him, ‘You’re going to UConn.’ I thought Omar did a tremendous job wearing him down, making his life miserable. His 25 came a little in transition, a little when Omar was on the bench.”

Calhoun sank arguably the game’s biggest shot, a deep, high-arcing three-pointer with 2:02 left to extend the Royals’ lead to 68-59. After a quiet start, Severe exploded for 14 second-half points and had the highlight of the game. He out-leaped Brown on a home run pass and managed to spin home a finger roll as he was falling away from the hoop.

“All three of us are mentally tough,” Lewis said. “If I miss my first four shots, I can make my next five. That’s also what separates us.”

Lewis has performed exceptionally well for the Royals through both games. Displaying point guard skills, he had five assists and just one turnover in the opening-round victory over St. Rita (Ill.) and made 10-of-14 shots against Wings, many of them on medium range jumpers.

“You can’t be any more efficient than that,” Arbitello said. “He showed his whole arsenal the last two days.”

So did Calhoun, from averaging just below 30 points in the Royals’ two wins to shining on the defensive end. Because of that performance, and with helps from Calhoun’s backcourt mates, Christ the King is 40 minutes from its second STOP-DWI Holiday Classic crown in three years.

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