BRONX, NY - Throughout the season, there has been a groundswell that has questioned Omar Calhoun's ranking as the best player in New York City.
On Friday, that consensus made its way into St. Raymond gym as the home crowd chanted "Overrated" every time the UConn-bound senior touched the ball. Thirty-two minutes and 33 points later, Calhoun would have the last word as Christ the King topped the Ravens, 84-74.
"That was just motivation," said Calhoun in response to the crowd's taunting him. Referring to NBA stars who were frequently taunted, Calhoun said, "Growing up, I watched a lot of Michael Jordan and Reggie Miller so that didn't bother me."
As evidence of the ice in his veins, Calhoun would score 20 of his points in the first half as the Royals took a 44-39 halftime lead into the locker room. Each bucket that Calhoun scored seemed in-sync with the crowds chant.
Anything you can do, I can do better seemed to be the theme of the game from the tip-off as St. Ray's matched the Royals tit-for-tat from the perimeter. Defense for both teams had left the building momentarily as Daniel Dingle (25 points) and teammate Nkereuwem Okoro (15 points) put up points which kept the Ravens in hunt.
St. Rays would tie the game at 19 and again at 28 but that would be it as clutch buckets by Isaiah Lewis (10 points) and Jordan Fuchs (13 points) helped put Christ the King ahead for good. Poor free-throw shooting by the Ravens also hindered the Bronx team's progress.
Another key factor in Christ the Kings victory was the play of Adonis Dela Rosa (12 points) in the paint. The 6'9" center was a major defensive presence. "I had to play a big game being that they had Daniel Dingle," said Dela Rosa. The sophomore was instrumental in ultimately causing Dingle to foul out late in the game. "We had to live up to the hype," he said.
As a team, the Royals did a good job at sharing the ball and increased their lead to 13 points with a little over 2 minutes remaining in the third.
Point guard Shane Rector (14 points) would cut the Ravens deficit to 10 points to start the fourth quarter but Dela Rosa would re-extend the Royals lead to 72-59 with 4 minutes left to play with a nice midrange shot.
Realizing the game was slipping away, the Raven's crowd became somewhat silenced and the chants of "Overrated" eventually morphed into "Let's go Ravens" as the focus shifted off Calhoun and onto motivating their team to come from behind.
With 3:17 left to play, a jumper by Myron Hickman (5 points) sparked a 7-0 Raven's run capped off by a foul on Okoro. The Iowa State bound senior would miss the first foul shot but would have to leave the game due to an injury to what appeared to be his wrist. Lawrence Graves (12 points) would replace Okoro at the charity stripe and hit the second free-throw. Suddenly the Royals lead was cut to 6 points and the fans were momentarily invigorated.
Fuchs, Jon Severe (12 points) and Calhoun would soon dash all hopes at a comeback as they collectively pushed the Royal's lead back to double digits as time wound down. With 32 seconds remaining, the Christ the King fans, who were in the minority for most of the evening, began to shout "Ceeee Kayyyy. Ceeee Kayyyy" as Dingle picked up his fifth and final foul.
"This is a big weekend for us," said Calhoun. "We got [the win] today and we have Cardinal Hayes [on Saturday]."
As far as beating St. Raymond, Calhoun said the win was more about bragging rights. "[There are] a lot of seniors who feel that they're on my level," he said.
With five players in double figures, Dela Rosa believes that if the Royals continue to play like they played against the Ravens they have a good chance of also defeating the #2 ranked Cardinals. "We just gotta bring the same intensity, keep the same chemistry and we'll be fine."
Royals head coach Joe Arbitello is perplexed as to why the crowd was chanting "overrated" asking, "If he's not the best player in the city, who is?"