King sidestepped a 47-point eruption by Smith, the CHSAA's most explosive scorer, and rode Sean Johnson's hot hand in the fourth quarter to an 87-85 win over Archbishop Molloy in the semifinals of the Brooklyn-Queens CHSAA Diocesan championship Wednesday night at Christ the King.
King (22-3) will face Xaverian, which defeated Bishop Loughlin 59-39 on Wednesday night, in the finals on Friday at Christ the King.
After losing twice to King during the regular season, Molloy threw a scare into its cross-boro rival, leading 65-64 early in the fourth quarter before Johnson came to life. The senior shooting guard (33 points) sparked a 9-0 run to open the fourth with a 3-pointer and a driving layup. Johnson attacked the rim with success and found space for his jumper en route to 15 fourth-quarter points.
It was apparent early that Smith was sharp. The slippery combo guard burst past defenders for easy buckets in the first quarter and was effective attacking the rim all night.
One sequence late in the second quarter captured Smith's ability to change a game. With Christ the King leading 43-32 Smith drove right, swooping along the baseline and underneath the rim for a wraparound finish.
On the next possession Smith infiltrated the King defense and motored towards to the rim. Facing down beefy posts Dominykas Milka and Roland Brown, the 155 pounder initiated contact, took the bump and dropped the shot, the stunned crowd exhaling in unison.
Sophomore point guard Corey Edwards scored 21 points in what Christ the King coach Joe Arbitello called the best game of his career. He excelled in the transition game, as is his strength, but also hit a pair of 3's and shot the ball confidently.
Smith's supporting cast was excellent. Molloy (15-10) received noteworthy efforts from junior guard Ernest Rouse (12 points), who kept the Stanners in the game with his third quarter offense, and senior forward Jin Hong, who established a defensive presence with a couple of emphatic blocks.
"We knew Russell was going to get his points," said Christ the King coach Joe Arbitello. "Their other guys played really well. Jin Hong played great. Ryan Dillon banged a couple of three's." Head coaches from Manhattan and Quinnipiac were on hand, as well as assistants from Long Island U. and Iona.