On paper, it looked like a tune-up game. And for New York (N.Y.) Rice, that's exactly what it turned out to be.
With the Catholic High School Athletic Association (CHSAA) Intersectionals starting this week, Monday's NY Diocesan championship game against a very young and inexperienced Bronx (N.Y.) St. Raymond Boys Ravens squad seemed ready-made for the No. 53, as ranked in the most recent RivalsHigh Top 100 boys basketball rankings, Raiders to tighten up any loose ends before going up against the much more competitive Brooklyn/Queens Archdiocese. The Raiders systematically trapped and pressed the Ravens into a 78-59 beating to win the top NY seed.
St. Ray's began poorly with miscommunication at the opening tip off. With its senior point guard Jattone Pierce-Bias watching from the sidelines with a cane due a foot injury, St. Ray's hopes for an upset were all but dashed as head coach Oliver Antigua was forced to start with an almost all underclassmen line up.
Dunks by Kadeem Jack and sharpshooting by Jermaine Sanders quickly put the Ravens in a 10-3 hole midway through the first quarter, although 6-4 sophomore Nkeruwem Okoro and 6-6 Daniel Dingle, also a sophomore, scrambled to keep the Ravens down only 17-11 as the quarter ended.
The Raiders' full-court press and traps soon wore on the Ravens and perimeter shots by 5-10 senior Scotty Arias and Sanders provided a 6-0 run, pushing their lead to 12 points. A quick steal and lay-up in transition by DaShawn Suber and Rice was up by 14 points with 4:40 remaining in the half.
Poor free-throw shooting was also St. Ray's nemesis as Rice's head coach Maurice "Mo" Hicks felt comfortable giving his bench players some playoff experience. 6-9 junior center Josh Gomez would not disappoint, scoring an and-1 in the paint after an offensive rebound, giving the Raiders a 15-point lead with 1:15 left on the clock. Okero and 6-0 junior guard Devin Brooks would, however, mount a 4-0 run as the half ended, cutting the Ravens deficit to 36-25 as they headed their respective locker rooms.
Tempers flared somewhat as the half ended, so expectations were high that the second half would be emotional.
6-4 junior Emmy Andujar's perimeter game flared up for Rice but St. Ray's lone senior guard, Gabriel Burroughs, attempted to anchor the Ravens offense. Looking to push the ball quickly up court and attack the rim, St. Ray's managed to cut the Raiders lead to 50-42 with 2:13 left in the third. Improved free-throw shooting by Okero and Brooks also helped put the Ravens in striking range as well.
Still down 56-46 as the final quarter began, Burroughs once again cut the lead to 8 points with a strong move in the paint. Dingle also pounded the offensive glass as well but the length of Rice started to catch up with the St. Raymond.
Mammoth dunks by Jack along with putbacks on the boards pushed the Raiders lead back to 12 points with 6:57 left in regulation. Shane Southwell would essentially mark the beginning of the end as he sparked a Raiders run that left Ravens down 64-58 with time running out.
Dingle and Okero battled in the paint until the very end but St. Ray's simply could not contain Jack and repel the Raiders' perimeter assault. Another 7-0 Rice run would leave nothing left in this movie but the credits and a fade to black.
Sanders scored a game-high 23 points for Rice with Jack and Andujar scoring 18 and 14 respectively. Dingle led St. Raymond's with 14 points while Burroughs added 13 and Okero had 9.
CHSAA Intersectionals Schedule
Rice will face Xaverian at 7:30 p.m. Friday in a the third quarterfinal matchup at Christ the King. That game will be preceded at 6 p.m. by Bishop Loughlin versus the winner of St. Francis/All Hallows, in the fourth quarterfinal. St. Francis and All Hallows, a first round game, play Tuesday at Holy Cross HS.
In the first quarterfinal game, St. Raymond will go up against Holy Cross at 6 p.m. Thursday at St. Francis Prep followed at 7:30pm by Christ the King versus the winner of Molloy and St. Peters in the second quarterfinal. Molloy and St. Peters, a 1st round game, play Tuesday at Holy Cross.
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