December 15, 2007

St. Rays Avenges March Loss to Christ the King

The Ravens will not receive rings for coming up victorious in this game. However, after losing last season's New York City CHSAA Championship game to Christ the King (Queens, NY), St. Raymond's (Bronx, NY) can likely look forward to success this March after Friday evening's win over Christ the King. In what was a thriller at the St. Raymond's Gym in the Bronx, the Ravens came out on top in overtime by a score of 95-90.

Both teams came out aggressive early, especially on the offensive end by crashing the boards hard and often. However, it was coach Oliver Antigua's St. Raymond's squad that played like men possessed as they caught fire from outside in the first quarter. With the game going back and forth early in the opening session, West Virginia-bound guard Darryl Bryant put in 7 consecutive points for the Bronx team during the tail end of the quarter to cap an offensive show in the first quarter with St. Rays going into the second quarter up 32-22. Christ the King's Ryan Pearson, who only stands at 6'6", played much bigger as he dominated in the paint and on the boards in the first quarter and throughout the game.

It was a pick-your-poison kind of night for St. Raymond's, as they pressed early to try and get the ball out of the hands of Florida-bound point guard Erving Walker, however the 5'6" Christ the King star led his team through the zone relatively easily, and with the scoring punch provided by Pearson, the George Mason-commit, the Royals began to creep their way back into the game. However, highly recruited junior guard Omari Lawrence was able to sustain a considerable lead for the Ravens by scoring from the perimeter as well as on dribble-drives to the basket and in transition.

While the senior guard Bryant and Lawrence provided most of the scoring for the Ravens, they received a significant contribution from senior guard Justin Alston, who put in 14 first half points for his Bronx school. With Christ the King only down five during the closing seconds of the half, St. Rays guard Tyreak Johnson banked home a three pointer with 1.5 seconds left to send the home team into the locker room up 51-43. The senior wing Pearson kept the Royals in the game with a double-double by halftime, scoring 20 points and pulling down 10 rebounds in the first 16 minutes of play, while Erving Walker contributed 7 points as well. St. Rays received balanced scoring from "Truck" (13 points), Lawrence (15 points) and the 14 points from Alston. Highly touted junior forward Kevin Parrom played much of the half in foul trouble and was neutralized well by coach Bob Oliva's team.

After halftime, the Queens school came out aggressive on all ends of the floor. They began leaning more on the play making abilities of the senior guard Walker on the offensive end, and that paid dividends as Christ the King went on a 6-1 run to begin the third session and with 5:54 to go in the quarter, the senior guard banked home a three to give the Royals a 55-54 lead. St. Raymond's made adjustments to neutralize the inside contributions from Ryan Pearson by making him play on the perimeter and forcing some of the other players on the floor to beat them. Christ the King was also able to neutralize the St. Raymond's weapons, as the studs of Bryant, Lawrence and Parrom all had a quiet third quarter. The Royals ended the session with momentum on their side as they held a 67-65 lead going into the final period of regulation.

The stars came out to shine in the fourth quarter for St. Raymond's as well as Christ the King. Both Bryant and Lawrence made immediate impacts on the offensive end and Ryan Pearson played scrappy in the paint and put home quite a few clean up points for the Royals, four of which came early in the quarter, which re-tied the game at 72 after St. Raymond's took a brief lead. However, the Ravens began taking control of the game midway through the fourth quarter, and with 1:41 to play, Bryant knocked down two free throws to give St. Raymond's what looked like a commanding lead.

Those who know what Erving Walker's impact to a team can be won't be surprised to hear what happened next. After those two "Truck" free throws, Walker led his team on a 9-1 run to close out regulation and send the game into overtime. Walker knocked down a key three pointer to make it a single possession game at 85-82 with 1:20 left and then the Robin to Erving's Batman, Ryan Pearson, converted back-to-back lay-ups that tied the game at 86. St. Rays had a chance to win the game at the buzzer; however, a Bryant midrange jumper along the baseline hit the back rim, sending the match into an extra session.

The beginning of the overtime didn't mirror the storyline of the offense-laden game, as neither team scored until Omari Lawrence knocked down a free throw to give the Ravens a one-point lead. The junior forward Parrom, who was plagued in foul trouble for much of the evening, began stepping up on the offensive end for the Ravens as he scored 4 straight points to give the home-borough Ravens a 91-89 lead, and coach Antigua's squad wouldn't look back from there. The Ravens were able to knock down their free throws down the stretch (something Christ the King didn't do throughout the game, making only 20 of 35 from the charity stripe during the evening) and pulled out a 5 point win, much to the delight of the packed gymnasium in the Bronx. The Royals had several comeback bids in the final seconds of overtime as well, however the Ravens guards were able to deny the sharp-shooting Walker and his teammates any quality looks from the floor. Wing guard Ryan Pearson finished with an impressive 40 points while the senior guard Walker finished with 24 points for the Royals. The team captain Bryant, who once again proved to be "the guy" that stepped up in the critical situations for his team, led the Ravens down the stretch. "Truck" finished with 35 points and received a 28-point contribution from the 6'3" Lawrence.

Christ the King coach Bob Oliva kept the game in perspective by stressing how valuable competing in an often-crazy environment such as the St. Raymond's gym would be. "We look at this as a very good experience. Two good teams clashed on their court, they shot lights out for a quarter and a half as good as any team can. We made a good come back and put ourselves in a good position to win the game. Nothing at all tonight to be negative about," said Oliva after the game, as his team and those players that participated will receive their New York City championship rings before their next game on Sunday against St. Dominic's.

St. Raymond's coach Oliver Antigua looked at tonight's game as a mixed bag, stressing the fact that his team could've played better. "We were off and we still won the game against a nationally ranked team and that says a lot about our program," said Antigua.

While both St. Raymond's and Christ the King play in a league in which they will have much competition en route to any championship run, you can be assured that these two teams will make plenty of noise throughout the season and we might be lucky enough to see a rematch of this game come playoff time.

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