FLUSHING, NY - Christ the King had just come off a grueling two state, two game set that ended with a 38 point nationally televised loss to Mater Dei on Monday. The Royals then had to return to New York and play a seasoned Holy Cross Knights for first place in their division. Could they rise to the challenge?
A tough 64-60 win over the Knights fueled by a 32 point performance by Omar Calhoun would answer that question.
"We never played a road trip like that from Missouri to Massachusetts and then back to New York to play another game," said Calhoun. "Definitely a lot of fatigue in us but we had to battle it out and come up with this win."
The UConn bound senior said used the three State, three game bonanza as learning experience for his upcoming college career. "You gotta take care of your body. Make sure you fuel up," said Calhoun who also said he had to learn to account for jet-lag.
It would be a hostile environment in the Knights gymnasium and Holy Cross set the stage early as Mairega Clarke (17 points) nailed a three to get the crowd jumping. To make matters worse, CTK big man Jordan Fuchs would take an awkward tumble in the first quarter after attempting a put-back dunk and would be out for the game.
"[Fuchs] wanted to get back in the game," said Royals head coach Joe Arbitello. "The trainer told me we could bring him back and use him but I'm also the Athletic Director at Christ the King and sometimes being the Athletic Director has to take precedence. Arbitello said believed that Fuchs was going to be the X-factor but after he was told that the forward's neck and back were hurting, he opted to keep Fuchs out for the remainder of the game.
Holy Cross kept the pressure on as buckets by Anthony Libroia (14 points) and Will Davis(20 points) gave them a 16-9 lead to begin the second quarter.
The Knights were running their sets like clockwork and with 2:55 were comfortably ahead 25-19 but a put-back by Marthely Senat (4 points & 8 rebounds) would spark a 9-0 run as Calhoun began to amass points. Scoring in a variety of ways, the talented senior drew a foul with 1:16 to give the Royals their first lead and another foul to extend that lead to 28-25 as the teams went into locker room.
Calhoun, who is considered one of the top players in NYC, can score in a variety of ways including the use of a quick release or by drawing fouls and shooting a high percentage from the line. His offensive prowess has drawn the ire of naysayers who claim he is over rated. "A lot of teams try to stop me in different ways, " said Calhoun. "[I] let my game speak and the record show."
Calhoun scored 14 of his 32 points in the first half but Holy Cross came out fired up at the top of the second half as Libroia, Davis and Marquise Moore(4 points) participated in a 10-0 run that regained the lead for the Knights.
Calhoun went into overdrive as he and teammate Isaiah Lewis (12 points) took advantage of a defensive lapse by the Knights. In addition, when Libroia, Holy Cross's primary playmaker was forced to the bench with his fourth foul, the Royals capitalized and tied the game at 37.
With 1:20 left in the third, 6'9" sophomore Adonis Delarosa (4 points & 6 rebounds) and Calhoun extended the lead to 4 point to begin the final quarter.
Throughout most the fourth quarter, the Knights could do no better than to exchange baskets with the Royals and with a minute left to play were still down by 3 points. Forced to foul, Holy Cross could only hope that CTK was miss from the charity stripe and Calhoun would put the game away from the charity stripe.
"This was a big game. Trying to get that first seed in the Brooklyn/Queens," Calhoun said. "We had to come out here a show a lot of heart and toughness to get this win,"
Arbitello compared the loss to Mater Dei with the win against Holy Cross. "There was no time for let downs against [nationally ranked] Mater Dei," he said. "You had to play hard for 32 minutes there and you had to not make mistakes in order to be close to beating them. Here, we were able to make a couple of mistakes and maybe not be hundred percent. Mater Dei is a great team."
With Tuesday's win, the Royals take first place in their CHSAA division with a 4-0 record (10-5 overall). Calhoun filled up the stat sheet with more than just points, contributing 7 rebounds, three assists, and one block while only committing two turnovers.
"[Calhoun's] record speaks for itself," said Arbitello. "He's the most winning-ist player in Christ the King history. He's gonna be the all-time leading scorer. He has a state championship; the first one in 22 years. He has three back-to-back-to-back Brooklyn/Queens championships in the CHSAA. So anybody that's taking shots at him are either jealous that they're not him or jealous that they're not playing at Christ the King and that's all I'm gonna say."