The script may change, but the result remains the same for Cardinal Hayes.
The Archdiocesan champion Cardinals suffered a heartbreaking 49-47 loss to eventual city champ Christ the King in the CHSAA Class AA Intersectional boys’ basketball semifinals at Fordham University last Thursday. It is Hayes’ third straight loss in the final four. Cardinals coach Joe Lods felt the referees took away his team’s chance to win the game when forward Nathan Ekwu was called for an offensive foul for pushing off CK center Adonis Delarosa with 32 seconds left and Hayes up two.
“It was like watching a scary movie for sure,” Lods said. “I hate when referees really have a strong say in the outcome. To think that our kid gave an arm bar to knock down a 250-pound kid is kind of unrealistic to say the least. I’m a big believer in let the kids play it out at the end.”
The Cardinals (26-2) took a 47-45 lead on a 3-point play by St. Joseph’s University-bound guard Shavar Newkirk with 1:03 left in the game. Delarosa made 1-of-2 free throws to pull CK within a point. He thought that was going to be enough to get his team over the hump.
“I tasted the championship,” Newkirk said.
Instead on Hayes’ next possession, Ekwo delivered a high forearm to Delarosa on his way to set a screen. Delarosa sold the impact well on his way to the floor and drew and offensive foul the got the Royals the ball back.
“That’s not a foul,” Newkirk said. “In games like that in that situation you can’t call a foul like that. That just changed the dynamics of the game. That was a key play to use losing.”
The Royals (22-6) got the ball back and the 6-foot-10 Delarosa powered his way out of the post for a 3-point play to put his team up for good at 48-47 with 17.3 ticks remaining. Lods called a screen and kick play for Newkirk to Chris Robinson, but Robinson ended up passing the ball to Jamal Smith in the corner. His 3-pointer went long. Travis Atson grabbed the rebound and was fouled with 1.7 seconds left, allowing the Royals to hold on.
“I figured both [defenders] would go to Shavar, kick back to Chris and Chris would get a good look at it” Lods said. “Chris sort of did, but he threw it to Smith in the corner.”
Newkirk’s supporting cast suffered a poor shooting effort and Hayes was never able to get out in transition. Newkirk was the only player in double figures. Mustafa Jones added nine. Christ the King on the other hand got 18 points from Rawle Alkins, 12 points and nine boards from Delarosa and 11 points from Andre Walker.
Despite another earlier exit than expected Hayes had one of its best season’s in recent years. It won its first Archdiocesan title since 1977 and lost to just St. Peter’s and Christ the King all year. This senior group has taken Cardinal Hayes from a Class A title contender to one of the elite programs at the highest level.
“We worked out way up,” Newkirk said. “It was a process and now we gave kids hope again to come play basketball at Cardinal Hayes high school. We gave the fans hope, alumni hope. We did a big thing for this program.”