A few bad seconds slowed a week’s worth of momentum for Christ the King.
The three-time defending CHSAA Class AA Intersectional champions rolled into a weekend tilt with PSAL power Thomas Jefferson off of league wins against St. Raymond and Archbishop Molloy.
However, the CK boys’ basketball team let their chances for a third straight victory slip away when it had the ball stolen twice on the same inbounds play in the final 19 seconds of a once-tied game. The Orange Wave made three of four free throws down the stretch to leave Middle Village with a 68-65 victory at the Apparel Challenge Saturday.
“That is probably the only part that’s disappointing, the fact that we couldn’t execute down the stretch,” Royals coach Joe Arbitello said.
St. John’s-bound guard Shamorie Ponds’ layup tied the score at 65-65 with 28 seconds left in the game. Following a timeout, Jefferson’s Cutis Smith jumped on a Jose Alvarado inbounds pass from midcourt to Tyrone Cohen in the left corner, took it the length of the court and was fouled.
He missed the first free throw, but made the second to put the Orange Wave up 66-65 with nine seconds remaining. With Christ the King looking to run the same play with 3.6 seconds remaining, Ponds stole Alvarado’s inbounds pass. He made both free throws to seal a win for Jefferson (17-7) in a game in which Christ the King had held a six-point lead.
“You can’t turn the ball over with 28 seconds to go in the game twice,” Arbitello said. “You are going to lose game against good opponents like that.”
Ponds scored 17 of his game-high 29 points in the first half and forward Malachi Faison added 15 points for the Orange Wave.
The Royals (13-7) were able to manage the pace, but Jefferson countered by slowing down star point guard Jose Alvarado (13 points) and keeping shooting guard Jared Rivers in check.
On a night when CK didn’t shoot the ball well from the outside, forwards Tracy Cleckley (18 points) and Tyrone Cohen (16 points) were superb on the offensive glass. An acrobatic put-back by Cleckley gave the Royals their last lead at 65-63 with 36 seconds remaining. The duo has been a major part of Christ the King winning seven of its last 10 games.
“When the outside shots aren’t falling, it’s usually us to clean them up,” Cohen said. “That’s what’s been keeping us in the game the last couple of games.
Despite the setback against Jefferson, Christ the King is still in the race for first place in Brooklyn/Queens and is positioned to move into second with a victory over Bishop Loughlin on Feb. 14.
“I thought we played hard,” Arbitello said. “I thought we played well defensively. They made a couple of tougher shots.”
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