BY LARRY FLEISHER
The Royals wound up winning a 54-51 overtime thriller in a game that featured Rawle Alkins hitting the game-tying three-pointer in regulation and Ray Salnave scoring 20 points for Cardozo. Eventually, Christ the King won consecutive state federation titles for the first time in program history.
As nice as it was for the two schools to play, the one downside was playing the game in a location three hours north of New York City. The game started at 11 a.m. on a Friday and the stands were hardly packed.
With that in mind, the schools scheduled a regular-season meeting as the fourth game of the Nike vs. Under Armour Showcase at Christ the King on Jan. 11. As the finale of the showcase that featured Christ the King’s girls team, Lincoln, St. Raymonds, Jefferson and Long Island Lutheran, the schools met in front of a packed crowd that featured at least 20 Division I coaches in the stands at various points.
The game wasn’t a reprise of the classic playoff game as Christ the King took control early in the second half and came away with a 76-64 victory over the previously undefeated Judges. The biggest impression was the atmosphere that left both Christ the King coach Joe Arbitello and Cardozo coach Ron Naclerio saying this should be an annual regular-season game.
“We’ve got to play every year,” Arbitello said. “I think it’s something that we have to do every year. He’s the best PSAL team in Queens, we’re the best CHSAA team in Queens. Why not?”
“I have no problem doing it,” said Naclerio, who was presented with a plaque for winning his 700th game before tip-off. “To be the best, you have to play the best and beat the best. I think Joe liked it.”
Having the game played in this kind of atmosphere also prompted the question of why the two best teams in Queens had not played in the regular season in recent years.
“I was a new coach, I don’t know, stupidity on my part,” Arbitello said. “I don’t know. It was stupid. We played last year in the state semifinal game in Albany and there were five people in the gym and it was 11 in the morning. You come here and this is the atmosphere that this game should be played in, not like that.”
There is a rematch at Cardozo on Jan. 29, 2016, at a time to be determined. By then Alkins, Salnave and Aaron Walker will be seniors, while Jose Alvarado will be a junior.
The Royals will be hoping Alkins is feeling much better and that Alvarado’s development will continue.
Alkins played with the flu and scored six points and had 12 rebounds, and when he picked up his fourth foul he suggested the Royals use a zone defense. Alvarado compensated for Alkins being sick by getting 25 points in a variety of ways and Christ the King’s depth also highlighted the win.
“We haven’t been a one-man show all year, but he’s happy to win, and he’s happy his teammates did well,” Arbitello said. “That’s what makes him a great basketball player, not just what he does on the floor.”
The Judges will hope to see more of the acrobatic moves and physical defense from Walker, who had 18 points. They will also aim to win a game that many hope will be a regular-season staple of the Queens high school basketball season.
“I liked what I saw and I hope the kids get better,” Naclerio said. “Some shots didn’t fall and some threes went in and out and they went back and got a quick layup. That’s the way the cookie crumbles.”
The odds are good that the schools could meet in Albany in the state federation playoffs. After an atmosphere like that on Jan. 11, the goal will be to duplicate it on a yearly basis and create a game few will forget.