February 2, 2008

Royals Top Stanners in 5th Quarter

Going into the final game of the evening, Archbishop Molloy had already won its freshmen and junior varsity games on Christ the King's floor.

The Stanners came close to completing the sweep, but ended up falling just short in overtime, losing to the Royals 87-86 in overtime.

Coach Bob Oliva's Christ the King squad had to begin the game shorthanded, as sophomore center Roland Brown was forced to the bench with a tailbone injury. The Royals were forced to adjust, as the Middle Village squad started a small line-up, playing 6'6" George Mason-bound senior Ryan Pearson at the center position.

Luckily, for Christ the King, 5'8" senior guard Erving Walker came out firing early and often, as he had the hot hand for the Royals' backcourt throughout the game. Walker, who will be playing for coach Billy Donovan and the Florida Gators next season, hit several three-pointers that were several feet beyond the arc, and also connected on a number of mid-range jump shots. The Stanners countered with their own electrifying guard, as junior Russ Smith knocked down a number of near impossible shots early on. Lanky forward Jin Hong used his team's size advantage by hitting the offensive boards hard early on, as he finished with 9 points in the opening half of Friday night's affair. Despite the solid inside-outside play, Christ the King was able to hold onto an 18-16 lead heading into the second session.

Hong scored the first 5 points of the quarter for the Stanners, as they were able to grab the lead as well as momentum away from the Royals. 6'8" sophomore Ashton Pankey began to get into the act as well in the second quarter for Molloy, as the size advantage paid large dividends for head coach Jack Curran's team, as they went into the locker-room up 41-35 at halftime. The senior guard Walker led all scorers with 22 points, while junior forward Sean Johnson chipped in with 6 points. Ryan Pearson, who has been an assassin offensively this season, was quiet in the first half, only scoring 5 points. Russ Smith, who had 12 points, while Jin Hong had 9 points and Ashton Pankey chipped in with 8 points for the well-balanced Queens team, led the Stanners.

Royals coach Bob Oliva knew that size was playing a major factor throughout the first half, and he called on his sophomore to try to play through some pain. "I told Roland (Brown), 'we need you. Can you play?'" said Oliva following the game. Brown decided to give it a go, and the extra body up front to rebound and alter shots made a major difference for Christ the King. The Royals were able to clamp down defensively, get stops and slowly chip away at the lead, and after a Roland Brown lay-up with 1:55 to go in the third quarter, Christ the King trailed only by a score of 54-53.

With a 58-55 advantage heading into the fourth and final quarter of regulation, Molloy had to be feeling somewhat insecure about their prospects. However, Russ Smith began to find the hot hand once again, as he connected on several acrobatic jump-shots and did a bit of "acting" as well as he was able to draw foul calls on two three-point attempts during the fourth quarter. Senior forward Ryan Pearson countered throughout the quarter for Christ the King, as he became a workhorse underneath and made the scrappy plays that the Royals needed down the stretch to keep them in the game. With 53 seconds to play Pearson's fellow senior, Erving Walker, finished a lay-up in transition to tie the score at 78. The Royals were able to get one last crack at winning the game in regulation, but an off-balance jump shot from Walker was way off, and the game headed into overtime.

The two teams would run neck and neck throughout much of overtime, but once again it was the injured sophomore big-man Roland Smith that converted a major basket for Christ the King when, with 1:30 left to play, he finished a lay-up underneath the basket. The Stanners were able to cut the lead to 87-86 when the forward Hong put in a lay-up of his own with 37 seconds to play. Coach Jack Curran decided to roll the dice and let Christ the King run down the shot clock without fouling, potentially allowing the Stanners to have the last possession with around two seconds to play. The Royals did run the shot clock all the way down, as Roland Smith missed the rim at the shot clock buzzer, however the shot clock reset and the refs had to confer with each other to decide what to do. After about a minute of deliberation, they decided that they would set the game clock at .9 seconds and give Molloy the ball. It would not be enough for the Stanners, as a heave from Ashton Pankey was way off, giving the Royals the win on their home court. Erving Walker led all scorers with 34 points, while Russ Smith led the way for Molloy with 31 points.

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