It was a game that resembled a heavyweight-boxing match. The undefeated, 10 - 0, NYCHoops #1 ranked Rice Raiders of Manhattan, NY came in the #6 ranked Christ the King Royals house in Middle Village, NY with that certain swagger of inevitability. The Royals prepared as they always do with their trainer putting them through pretzel like stretches as the Raiders casually performed lay-up drills. The clock winded down and the match began with Rice throwing the first blow, a lay-up by UConn-bound Kemba Walker. However, when the dust settled and the final proverbial bell had rung, it was George Mason-bound Ryan Pearson holding ball and the win for the Royals, 65 - 61. It would be the first loss of the season for Rice.
In the first quarter, Rice went on the attack with their trademarked swarming defense but Pearson countered with his right to left slashing to the rim. Kemba Walker would score along with Dorvell Carter for Rice to give Rice the lead at the end of the quarter, 14 - 13.
With a quiet "Not in my house" confidence, the Royals struck back hard at the top of the second quarter and with 7:10 left, 6'8" sophomore center Roland Brown scored on a give 'n go, giving the Royals their first lead of the game 15 - 14. Pearson would follow-up with a slashing lay-up and Rice would take a time-out as the crowd roared.
After the time-out, Drexel-bound Chris Fouch would step back off a designed Raider play and swish a three pointer but Brown would go strong to the hole and score and so the battle would begin. The Raiders tried to apply traps and very aggressive defense especially when Florida-bound senior point guard Erving Walker would handle the ball. At times, however, Rice would overextend their "D" and commit costly fouls. That coupled with the fact that Erving Walker is a master at splitting defenders and exploiting traps.
Christ the King would often rebound and quickly initiate an outlet pass most often to Pearson who would score on the run. One such fast break resulted in a thunderous slam-dunk to which Pearson snarled viciously. The Royals lead increase to 27 - 20. The Raiders would take yet another time-out as they tried to figure out how to counter CTK's offensive attack and 2 - 3 zone defense.
The plan? A 1-3-1 offense and to overload one side. The result? An open shot by Dorvell Carter, which he missed, and a bucket scored by Erving Walker in transition for the Royals. Christ the Kings lead eventually ballooned to 31 - 21 by the end of the half and the normal Raider swagger was noticibly absent. Pearson led the half time scores with 15 points and James Stukes led Rice with 8 points followed by Fouch with 7 points.
The Royals came out of the locker room first. They were smiling and pointing to their fans in the crowd. The Raiders seemed "concerned" and frustrated. Bench players were trying to encourage the starters and Coach Mo Hicks was feverishly trying to explain to his team what they needed to do to get back in this one. "Make stops" he yelled. "You know what you gotta do."
The Royals went onto the court first and set up in a 2 - 3 zone yet again and waited for the Raiders to get out of their huddle. Rice finally came out but seemed uncharacteristically dejected. Off the inbound pass, Chris Fouch launched a quick 3 pointer that missed badly. Roland Brown and Ryan Pearson would then crash the boards. Throughout the game, the Raiders shooting percentage was dismal which hurt them. Fouch was the only ray of hope for Rice as his overall 3-point percentage was off the chain.
Rice initiated a full court press, which didn't work right away, as Rice didn't score until 6:06 left in quarter. With the score 38 - 31, Coach Hicks got a technical foul for a no-call that resulted in Kemba Walker flat on his back. Fouch then nails a 3-ball and the score was suddenly 39 - 34. Pearson powers up for two but Roland Brown commits a foul. Due to foul trouble on Carter and Durand Scott, Coach Hicks put Jeff Harris in the game. He scored a quick two but also committed 3 quick fouls. Rice was unable to get and make good shots and with a Tony Turkovic put back, Christ the King had their largest lead at 49 - 37.
Starting the fourth quarter, Rice look bewildered. Durand Scott and Dorvell Carter started out on the bench and although Rice would make a valiant effort to come from behind, it would be 5'8" junior guard Marion Smith, who hadn't played all game, that would score the final knock out punch by calmly swishing 2 foul shots with moments left in the game for the Royals (See video). Christ the King would subsequently withstand the final charge of the Rice Raiders and ultimately win the game.
When asked about the win, Royals Coach Bob Oliva responded, "Roland Brown was our X factor. He's a sophomore and sophomores have peaks and valley. Today we had a peak." On the use of the zone he replied, "We could zone them because they don't have a true inside player." With regard to Ryan Pearson, all Coach Oliva could say was "He's our 6'5" Walter Berry."
High scorer for Christ the King was Ryan Pearson with 31 points followed by Erving Walker with 13 points. Chris Fouch was high man for Rice with 21 points. Rice fall to 10 - 1 while Christ the King goes to 7 - 2.
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