Two weeks ago, the Christ the King boys basketball team captured its fourth city championship in the last five years.
But on Sunday, the Royals firmly established themselves as not only a New York City basketball powerhouse, but a statewide force to be reckoned with once again.
In a rematch of last year’s “AA” division state championship game, Christ the King erased a 14-point second quarter deficit to defeat Long Island Lutheran 58-52 in the finals of the state Federation tournament to win its second consecutive championship.
Winning is in coach Joe Arbitello’s blood, as it’s the third crown he’s brought home to the Middle Village school in the last five years.
“It’s an amazing accomplishment, no doubt about it,” Arbitello said. “I thought this was the hard one to get ... I thought this was the toughest year.”
One of Christ the King’s calling cards over the last few years has been its ability to pump out productive college players such as Fordham’s Jon Severe and recent St. John’s point guard Malik Boothe.
But this year’s Royals team featured a plethora of players who could take over a game at any moment.
For most of the year, it’s been star center Adonis Delarosa grabbing almost as many headlines as rebounds for his stellar play.
In the Catholic High School Athletic Association city finals, it was sophomore Rawle Alkins’ 24 points and the 21 point, 10 rebound effort of junior Travis Atson, who garnered tournament Most Valuable Player honors, that proved to be the difference.
But in the state finals, it was dynamic point guard Andre Walker who shined brightest on the court.
The senior, playing in his final game as a Royal, scored a game-high 25 points, including 13 in the third quarter, on his way to securing the title game MVP award.
“Sometimes when you play with other great players, your performance gets overlooked,” Arbitello said. “But without Andre, we don’t win the game.”
Walker only averaged 11 points per game during the regular season, but picked up some important buckets for his team while Alkins, Atson and Delarosa combined for only 23 points.
Underrated guard Bryler Paige also stepped up for the Royals, as he scored 10 points, including a pair of clutch free throws to give Christ the King a five point lead with 11 seconds left.
Early in the contest though, it appeared that a second straight title for the Royals was not in the works. They scored just four points in the first quarter and trailed 25-17 at halftime as a result of extremely poor shooting.
“I thought we were in trouble,” Arbitello said. “When we were down 14, it was their chance to blow us out.”
But that’s when Walker, who is without a scholarship offer, got hot, leading his team to a comeback win.
Christ the King defeated fellow Queens program Benjamin Cardozo High School of Bayside 54-51 in overtime in the tournament semifinals on Friday.
The Royals season ends with another state title, and early expectations are that Christ the King should be contenders for a third straight crown next year, despite losing Delarosa to graduation.
The senior, who has been scouted by major college programs like St. John’s, Fordham and South Carolina, will reveal his decision on where he will attend school publicly on April 18.
Despite losing one of the city’s biggest and best impact players, Arbitello expects his team to find success on the city and state’s biggest stage again next year.
“I like my team next year with Rawle and Travis back,” he said. “It’s going to be a good season.”