In three of the previous four seasons, the Christ the King boys basketball team had been crowned as the Catholic High School Athletic Association city champions. In two of those banner seasons, it was Brooklyn rival Bishop Loughlin on the losing end of the contest.
On Sunday afternoon, Christ the King proved that the only aspect of the city championship game that has changed over the last few years has been the name on the CHSAA Tournament Most Valuable Player trophy, not the result of the game or even who the Royals knock off to capture the crown.
In the highly-anticipated rematch of the Brooklyn/Queens tournament championship game, won by Bishop Loughlin in convincing fashion just two weeks ago, Christ the King once again knocked off Bishop Loughlin 72-61 to decisively capture the CHSAA city championship at Fordham University in the Bronx.
Like past Christ the King stars Jon Severe and Malik Boothe, who were both in attendance on Sunday, forward Travis Atson walked away with tournament MVP honors, as he netted 21 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and played the gritty defense needed to repel Loughlin’s deadly offensive attack.
Coming into the contest, superstar senior center Adonis Delarosa figured to be the catalyst for the Christ the King offense, but it the relatively unheralded combination Atson and fellow forward Rawle Alkins, who scored 24 points, that truly carried the Royals to yet another city championship.
“It’s just amazing. It’s another great add-on to winning the city championship,” Atson said of his MVP honor. “We all played great. Rawle scored 24 points. Adonis played great. … You couldn’t ask for more.”
“It’s nothing different, he’s been doing it all year long. I’m proud of him,” Royals coach Joe Arbitello said of Atson. “It makes a coach really happy that he has Travis Atson and Rawle Alkins coming back next year.”
When the same squads battled on Feb. 21, Loughlin star and CHSAA regular season MVP Khadeen Carrington scored a career-high 42 points in the 90-71 destruction of Christ the King.
In the rematch, Carrington’s point total was slashed in half, as Alkins admirably defended the Seton Hall-bound prospect and held him to just 21 points.
Mike Williams, the Rutgers recruit who scored 30 points in Loughlin’s semifinal win, was held to just 17 points.
Offensively, Atson contributed the most from the free throw line, as he hit all 11 of his attempts, including four in the final minute to seal the game for Christ the King.
Alkins, on the other hand, delivered the dagger to Loughlin’s title hopes from long range, as he buried a three-pointer with 2:32 remaining in the game to give the Royals a 64-60 lead, an advantage that Loughlin would never threaten for the rest of the contest.
“I told myself that I was going to be more aggressive in this game. Forget what everybody thinks,” Alkins, who guaranteed a Christ the King victory before the game, said. “I’m just going to play my game and be me, and that’s what happened. I had a good game today and I’m going to play like that from now on.”
“My team wanted to win so badly. It wasn’t meant to be for [Loughlin],” he added. “Bishop Loughlin comes up short every year to Christ the King. They’re going to hate Christ the King forever.”
After Thursday’s win over Cardinal Hayes in the tournament semifinals, Delarosa said he wanted the Royals’ opponent in Sunday’s title game to be Loughlin. Despite getting his wish, the Loughlin defense held him in check for most of the game.
The center, who has been receiving interest from college programs like St. John’s and South Carolina, scored just four points through the first three quarters. However, Delarosa grabbed numerous clutch rebounds and knocked down important free throws in the final minutes, as he finished with 10 points and 15 rebounds.
“Christ the King and Loughlin, that’s a big rivalry. They got us twice this year,” Delarosa said. “But we got them when it counted. I’m going to go onto college next year, but I know for the rest of my life, I’m going to remember the Christ the King and Loughlin games.”
The Royals now advance to the New York State Federation Tournament of Champions in Albany, where they will square off with Public School Athletic League champion Benjamin Cardozo High School of Bayside on March 21.