MIDDLE VILLAGE, NY - Three is indeed a charm for the Christ the King Royals. The Middle Village, NY varsity squad seems to be peaking at just the right time. After an up and down season, the NYCHoops.net #3 ranked Royals put together a solid performance on Friday to overtake a hard charging Holy Cross Knights, 64-56, for their third straight CHSAA B/Q Diocesan Championship.
For the Knights to have any chance of winning, they had to be firing on all cylinders from the perimeter. An unexpected trey by their big man Marcus Hopper (11 points) early in the first quarter set the stage for just that as additional 3-balls by 6'2" junior Will Davis (10 points) countered inside play by the Royals early on.
Leading 18-14 as the second quarter began, Holy Cross continued shooting a high percentage from the arc as Evan Conti (14 points) drew iron. The Flushing, NY school also crashed the boards to counteract CTK's height advantage. The Royals remained within striking range as 6'6" sophomore Jordan Fuchs (6 points) and sharpshooter Omar Calhoun (16 points, 4 rebounds) began to heat up but a scoring spree by 6'0" junior Marquise Moore (13 points) would keep the Knights ahead at the half, 31-25.
In the third quarter, the Royals came out more aggressive as Calhoun scored and drew a foul. The junior shooting guard would miss the and-1 but grabbed the offensive rebound to score. With 6:29 left in the quarter, T.J. Curry (11 points, 8 rebounds) would knock down a trey to cap off a 6-0 run, giving the Royals their first lead, 32-31.
The lead would change hands as Hopper and Moore scored inside but overall, the Knights shooting percentage began to falter and Christ the King began to win the battle of the boards. CTK's defensive intensity increased as well as the Royals held Hopper to only two second half points. With 3:02 left in the third, CTK pushed their lead to 8 points. Terrell Hunt (11 points), who has a football scholarship to Syracuse, provided a relentless presence in the paint along with 6'8" senior Chris Ortiz (12 points, 12 rebounds), who dunked with authority as the quarter ended, giving CTK a substantial 50-40 lead.
The top of the fourth quarter belonged to the Knights who abandoned their aerial attack and instead exploited their 4-guard lineup to score transition points on the bigger but slower Royals squad. 5'8" junior Anthony Libroia (9 points) put on a show, scoring on a circus move that sparked a 14-4 Knights run, capped off by buckets from Moore and Conti. When the dust settled, the game was suddenly tied at 54 apiece with 3:59 left in regulation.
Christ the King would pull ahead but Holy Cross would tie the game again at 56 but the adrenaline used by the Knights playing catch-up was followed by a crash towards the end of the game. A three-pointer by Royals point guard, Corey Edwards (8 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists) with 2:24 would end up being the beginning of the end for the Holy Cross as the Middle Village squad would finish off the Knights with an 8-2 run.
Part two in the Royals quest for a Federation State Championship repeat begins on Sunday as the CHSAA Intersectionals begin. The Royals will play again at Christ the King Regional HS on Thursday (3/3) or Friday (3/4) against the winner of Archbishop Molloy versus St. Peter.