Christ the King vs. Rice: The Greatest High School Basketball Spectacle Ever
Words. Aron Phillips
While everyone had football on the brain for yesterday’s Super Bowl Sunday, the day also featured one of NYC’s most touted high school hoops rivalries between Christ the King (Queens, N.Y.) and Rice (Harlem, N.Y.). In front of a packed house on the Middle Village campus, I made the trek from the 4 to the J to the M for what could have been the greatest high school basketball spectacle ever.
As soon as you got there, you might have thought you were at Madison Square Garden, with Mike “Wally” Walczewski – the voice of the Knicks for over 20 seasons – in the house to call the game alongside NBA Hall of Famer Walt “Clyde” Frazier. And as if that wasn’t great enough, Louisville’s Rick Pitino, Florida’s Billy Donovan and David Lee were on hand to catch the action as well, and Funkmaster Flex was on the 1′s and 2′s during pre-game warmups.
Fans from both sides were decked out in rivalry t-shirts in their school’s colors, with matching foam fingers on either hand. The crowd erupted for the empire-tested battle when none other than Puppet LeBron and Puppet Kobe appeared on the JumboTron rocking Christ the King and Rice tees, giving a pre-game message to each squad. And in case you didn’t know, as CTK is a LeBron school and Rice is a Kobe school, both teams also had on the freshest of kicks with SMU Nike Air Max LeBron VIIs and Nike Zoom Kobe Vs.
Before the pre-game intros, the Knicks City Dancers came out and performed with a real Knicks light show to kick things off. Every player from both teams then proceeded to get announced in the lineups and stand out at center court. It was definitely an experience these kids – both players and fans – had never had. Sure these guys have played in big games before, but nothing like this.
Once the game finally got underway, CTK scored the first two and really never looked back. With 6-1 junior point guard Corey Edwards running the show, the Royals jumped out to a 7-0 lead in front of a great home crowd. With jitters on both sides for sure, especially playing in front of two of the biggest coaches in college basketball, defense really took over in the first quarter. After one, the Royals led 13-4.
In-between quarters, the circus didn’t stop. Members of the Knicks’ 7th Avenue Squad came rolling out with t-shirt guns and began launching tees into the stands. As if taking a nine point lead into the break wasn’t enough to get the home crowd amped, this just sent them over the top.
In the second quarter, 6-7 senior Dominykas Milka (a native of Mazeikiai, Lithuania) and 6-4 senior Maurice Barrow were doing work in the post. Going up against the Raiders’ Big Three of 6-6 senior Shane Southwell (headed to Kansas State), 6-8 senior Kadeem Jack and 6-4 junior Jermaine Sanders, the Royals extended their lead to 19-7 halfway through the second quarter. For whatever the reason, Rice just couldn’t buy a bucket.
Finally, Sanders broke the drought with a fastbreak layup after some great defense by the Raiders. The next play down, Sanders hit a three. But a buzzer-beating triple by T.J. Curry had CTK leading 28-15 at halftime.
So while both teams retreated to the locker rooms to talk about the first half, the rest of the gym was blown away when none other than Fabolous strutted out to center court to perform. With everyone on their feet, Fab graced the crowd with some of his new hits as well as some of his classics, while showing love to the enthralled crowd. (He even made one of CTK’s cheerleaders faint after he walked by and touched her hand.)
In the second half, while you thought Rice would come out firing, it was actually CTK that put the nail in the coffin. Curry came out quickly and knocked down another three, followed by a trifecta from 6-4 sophomore Omar Calhoun to make it 39-20. Calhoun, who currently has offers from Villanova and St. John’s, is also drawing interest from Maryland, Pitt, Florida, Kentucky, Kansas, Indiana and Rutgers. The chatter around press row was that he was the guy that brought Pitino and Donovan to Queens. At the end of three, the CTK’s lead was now 46-22.
To start the fourth quarter, it was as if the lid was finally taken off of Rice’s basket. Jack finally got a bucket, Southwell stole the inbounds pass and dunked it, and before you knew it, the Raiders were coming back. Rice’s most consistent player all day, Sanders got fouled and hit the three to make it 55-41 with about 2:15 left to play, then stole the ball twice – converting each time – to make it 55-45 with 90 seconds remaining. But the push was too little, too late, as CTK held on for the victory at home, 60-52.