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Sunday shocker: Xaverian edges Christ the King

With the talent that left from graduation and transfers, the prevailing thought coming into the boys’ basketball season was that the CHSAA Class AA league was wide open. Christ the King and Rice were slight favorites, but Bishop Loughlin was also a contender.

On Sunday, Xaverian threw its hat in the ring with a stunning upset, defeating Christ the King, 46-44, in Middle Village.

“For us to beat them it means that anybody can be beaten,” Xaverian senior guard Rasheem King said. “It’s like Rice lost last week to St. Raymond’s and today we beat Christ the King. Anybody can be beaten on any given day this year.”

Over the last two seasons, Xaverian has been decimated by transfers, losing James Padgett, Vincent Council and Reggie Davis to Lincoln, Brandon Romain, Patrick Jackson David Imes and Zamal Nixon to Boys & Girls and Joab Jerome to Wheeler (Ga.).

King, though, was the lone player who stayed. And on Sunday, he willed the Clippers to a shocking upset despite not scoring a point.

“He didn’t even have a basket today and he dominated the game,” Xaverian coach Jack Alesi said. “I’m hard-pressed to find a kid that I’ve ever had that just wants to win and play the game the right way and never worries about what he’s doing.”

While there are other teams in the CHSAA with star players, like Rice with Miami-bound Durand Scott and Bishop Loughlin with Jayvaughn Pinkston, Xaverian’s success is based on an old-school concept.

“We have four main scorers and we have really good role players in kids who come off the bench and we all play hard on ‘D,’” said Justin Exum, who scored a game-high 18 points. “That’s what we’re all about.”

Added King: “We don’t really have the name players, the five-star players. We just have a couple of guys who play hard and do their role.”

Christ the King (18-3, 9-2), which was 9-0 at home, raced out to a 15-6 lead after one quarter and seemed ready to cruise to a ninth straight victory. But Xaverian (8-10, 4-6) responded in a big way in the second quarter, outscoring the Royals, 20-4, to take a 26-19 lead into halftime.

“Once it turned, it turned and that was it,” Christ the King coach Joe Arbitello said. “They played exceptional. They ran their offense; they defended us real well. I thought they dictated every part of the game.”

The Clippers, a team of five guards with a ton of grit, never relinquished the lead.

“We played tough as a team, hit big shots when we needed,” said Yandell Denis, who had 11 points. “A couple of foul shots missed, but that’s alright, we still came out with (the win).”

Sean Johnson, one of the leading scorers in the league, was held to just 11 points. The Royals struggled from the perimeter and never truly exploited its size advantage in the post.

Xaverian led by as many nine in the third quarter, but fended off the Royals’ late rally as Ihsaan Davis missed a corner 3-point attempt with two seconds left in regulation and Johnson’s turnaround putback attempt at the buzzer was off the mark.

“The thing that these kids have bought into is that we are not great on paper and they accept the challenge of trying to play above themselves to beat teams,” Alesi said. “We beat Molloy the other day but this for them, and you could see it in the locker room, was a statement game.”

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