St. Raymond’s was late arriving to Carnesecca Arena on Saturday afternoon because the Ravens players shot 50 free throws apiece at their gym before making the trip across the Whitestone Bridge.
That was the punishment for missing 16 from the charity stripe in a CHSAA Class AA league game Friday night against St. Francis Prep – a game the Ravens won.
Against Campus Magnet in the Big Apple Basketball PSAL-CHSAA Challenge, St. Ray’s missed 17 free throws, but still came away with a 70-64 victory at St. John’s University.
“I guess it didn’t work out, but we pulled it out in the long run,” junior guard Steve Whittingham said, referring to the extra work from the foul line. “We didn’t give up and we kept our heads mentally.”
St. Raymond’s (4-0) became an even younger team on Saturday as starting guard Tyreak Johnson was on the bench after re-aggravating an ankle injury that kept him sidelined for three weeks in the preseason on Friday night.
That gave Whittingham, a junior who rarely played last season, a chance to showcase his skills on the big stage of Carnesecca Arena.
Whittingham finished with 19 points, including the only free throws the Ravens made in the final 90 seconds of the fourth quarter.
“I thought he played great,” St. Raymond’s coach Oliver Antigua said. “He’s a tough kid, a competitor. He didn’t play a lot last year so he had a chance to step and get some good minutes and he showed that today – he was huge.”
Sidiki Johnson, a talented 6-foot-7 sophomore, added 14 points for the Ravens, who dominated the glass, especially late when St. Ray’s was able to clean up on the offensive boards.
“We’re a young team, we’re talented, but we don’t know how to play the game as well,” Johnson said. “We only have a couple of returning players, but come February and March we’re going to be a good team and we’re going to be ready to go.”
The Ravens’ youth was evident throughout the game. They built up a 21-point lead midway through the second quarter only to have Campus Magnet (1-5) go on a 9-0 run before Kareem Bernard closed out the half with a three-point play to give St. Ray’s a 39-23 lead at the half.
With the Ravens still in the huddle, Sasha Clarida (19 points) got a free layup to open the third quarter, sparking an 8-2 run that got the Bulldogs to within 10. The Ravens tried to press, but Magnet made them pay with countless uncontested layups over the top.
“We played hard certain parts of the game,” Clarida said. “If we played hard the whole game, we might have won. We have to play hard from beginning to end.”
Chad Coachman added 18 points, including a personal 6-0 run late in the third quarter to cut the Bulldogs deficit to 51-45. Kelvin Lewis added 11 for Magnet, which is taking positives from this loss.
“I think this is probably one of the best games we played all year,” Campus Magnet coach Chuck Granby said.
As for St. Raymond’s, the game also serves as a learning experience. But their lesson comes with a victory.
“I know what we have, so I’m not expecting miracles,” Antigua said. “I just hope that we learn and we’re better in February than we are now.”