St. Raymond’s varsity basketball team six times captured the Catholic High Schools Athletic Association Intersectional or city-wide title since 1990. Terence Rencher, Kariem Reid, Julius Hodge, Allan Rey, Lou McCrosky and Gavin Grant took home trophies as Most Valuable Player of the playoff tournaments. Gary DeCesare and Oliver Antigua were the head coaches at St. Raymond during those years.
After its last title came in 2004, the program somewhat went down and there were no titles for the Ravens.
Last week it all came together once again. Without Rice of Manhattan in the league, as the school closed its doors, the ride to the top for the Ravens was a little bit easier than over past years when the two schools battled it out on the court.
Led by the one-two punch of forwards Danny Dingle and Nkeruwem Okoro, the Ravens from The East Bronx bounced back to win its seventh such intersectional title with a 66-57 victory over Holy Cross of Queens. The latter entered the playoffs gunning for their third such crown.
With the score at 48-48 in the second half, two free throws by Dingle, a field goal by Okoro, and lay-up by Shane Rector put the Ravens ahead to stay. Okoro was named Most Valuable Player of the championship round.
Holy Cross entered the playoffs gunning for their third straight title.
Both Okoro and Dingle are now headed to college careers with Dingle staying close to home by attending Temple University in Pennsylvania come September.
Playing for Coach Oliver Antigua was just tremendous for the entire team.
“He’s a great guy,” Dingle said. “As a freshman he wanted me to be the best. I worked very hard every day. He got me to where I am today. I appreciate for what he and his staff did for me.”
Dingle actually started his high school days as a freshman, when he played very well on its team . But they lost in the semi-final round of the playoff tournament.
As a sophomore the program seemed to be going down.
“At (this time), it gave people other opportunities to step up,” added Okoro. “For two years we didn’t go pass the semi-finals. But we all stayed together and believed in each other. That’s why we won the championship.
“The coach told me to keep going. I was in a good groove. We’re here and got a championship.”
“It’s a great feeling and it is unbelievable to win the title,” said Antigua.
During the summer, the Ravens took 21 of 30 games, while Holy Cross won 24 of 29 contests.
“We had bumps on the road and we had to re-group,” Okoro said.
The coach said that the season is practice. “You make the run in the playoffs,” he added.