January 13, 2008

Rice Takes Down St. Rays in OT

Rice came into Saturday's game at rival St. Raymond's a wounded animal, but four quarters and an overtime later, the Raiders had served notice that they're still among the country's most dangerous beasts. In one of the more intense games the city has seen in a while, Rice clawed its way to an 81-74 win over the NYC Hoops #1 Ravens.

In front of a raucous standing room only crowd, Rice fought through foul trouble and injury to prevail in the city's latest veritable one-versus-two match-up.

The game figured to feature a face-off between two of the city's top three point guards - Rice's Connecticut-bound Kemba Walker and St. Raymond's West Virginia-bound Darryl "Truck" Bryant - and the two floor generals did not disappoint.

Walker began the game with a lay-up following a nifty behind-the-back crossover, but Bryant and the Ravens responded with a 10-3 run to take a five-point lead with 5:51 remaining in the first. Rice eventually cut the St. Ray's lead to one at 18-17, but the Raiders, as would be the case for the majority of the game, were bitten by their inability to control the defensive glass. St. Raymond's scored the final five points of the first quarter off of put-backs to take a 23-17 lead after one.


Rice answered with five in a row to start the second, and the Raiders eventually took their first lead of the game, 29-27 at the 5:03 mark, on a tap-in by junior forward Tyler Montplaisir. The teams traded leads three more times before half, and St. Raymond's would end up clutching a 39-38 lead at the break.

Early in the third, the Ravens saw their first serious opportunity to take control. A lay-up by junior Kevin Parrom - his only field goal of the night -- off an assist from Bryant put St. Raymond's up 45-38 with 5:55 on the clock, but Rice weathered the storm, clamping down defensively and going on a 9-2 run to knot the game at 47-47 with 42 seconds left in the quarter. A tap-in by St. Ray's senior forward Rob Young put the Ravens in front, 49-47, heading into the fourth, but St. Ray's would rue its inability to get separation in the third.

Walker, who had scored a somewhat quiet 18 points through the first three quarters, looked to be ready to take over in the fourth, draining a pair threes on consecutive possessions to put Rice on top, 53-50 with 7:12 remaining. Shortly thereafter though, Walker collided and appeared to bang knees with St. Ray's Parrom. The Raiders' leader fell to the floor, and then tried to get up but fell to the floor again.

While the injury looked severe, Walker walked off the pain and returned with 6:28 remaining, immediately launching a long three that went astray. On the rebound, Rice, with one star returned, would lose another, as junior forward Durand Scott was whistled for his fifth foul.

St. Ray's forged ahead, 57-53, on an emphatic breakaway jam by Bryant, but Rice senior guard Chris Fouch immediately answered with a three to trim the lead to one. A breakaway lay-up by Bryant - who scored the Ravens' last eight points in regulation - put St. Raymond's up 65-62 with 2:39 to go, but a free throw by Walker and a follow by Montplaisir evened the score with 1:58 left.

The Ravens had plenty of chances to regain the lead, but Parrom was called for consecutive traveling violations, and junior guard Omari Lawrence was called for a charge with 35.6 seconds left. Walker held the ball for Rice's final shot, but missed a leaner from the left elbow at the buzzer, and the game went into an extra session.

Fouch, the Drexel-bound sharpshooter, hit the biggest shot of the game with 3:27 to go in overtime, nailing a long three to ignite the Rice section of the crowd and establish momentum in the OT. Two free throws by Bryant cut the Rice lead to 70-69, but the Raiders then went on an 8-2 run to go up by seven with :55.4 seconds to play.

St. Ray's bought itself one more chance when a three by senior guard Justin Alston cut the Rice lead to 77-74. Lawrence, however, proceeded to miss two shots from point blank range that would've cut the Rice advantage to one possession each time.

The loss was the first for the Ravens, who now drop to 13-1 on the year. The Raiders, meanwhile, rebounded from their loss to Christ the King and improved to 12-1 with the win.

Both teams got lackluster performances from their third scorers, with Scott scoring just two for Rice and Parrom only three for St. Raymond's. Only the Raiders, however, had players fill the void that their struggling star left. Senior forward Dorvell Carter scored 14 points for Rice and Montplaisir contributed 10.

"Dorvell can be that X-factor for us," said Rice coach Maurice Hicks after the game, "and I think he proved that tonight."

St. Raymond's head coach Oliver Antigua bemoaned a sloppy fourth quarter as the reason for the loss. The Ravens committed seven turnovers in the fourth quarter, of which Antigua said: "That really came back to bite us and gave Rice an opportunity to get back in the game. We were trying to make passes that weren't supposed to happen."

Rice and St. Raymond's both play in the Nike Super Six on Sunday at Madison Square Garden, with St. Ray's playing FAB50 #5 St. Patrick's at 12:30 p.m. and Rice playing FAB50 #1 St. Benedict's at 2 p.m.

Both coaches said after Saturday's game that their teams wouldn't mind the quick turnaround.

"I think (the turnaround) is good for us," said Antigua, "because we can forget about this loss and move on. If we had a couple days of practice (in between games), things could get ugly."

Rice's Coach Mo Hicks, meanwhile, said that his players look forward to playing in The Garden all year long. "They always ask me, 'Are we playing in the Super Six?'" said Hicks, "so (a game at) The Garden is a game you really don't have to go in the locker room and pump them up for. Those guys are already psyched."

Walker led all scorers with 29 points and Fouch added 15 for the Raiders. Bryant scored 26 for St. Ray's and Lawrence chipped in 23, but no other Ravens scored in double figures.

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