By Dan McGrath

The Gladiators turned on the Lions Saturday with stunning ferocity.

Christ the King Jesuit College Prep’s basketball team goes by Gladiators, and they hosted Leo’s Lions in a nonconference game on the West Side. Before halftime, Leo’s 17-point trimming of St. Rita a night earlier was a distant memory.

Whereas the Mustangs bore a physical resemblance to a frosh-soph JV squad, the Gladiators (7-2) are a team of grown men. They’re built like an NFL linebacking corps and, enabled by an officiating crew objectively described as  clueless, played like one in manhandling the Lions 55-38.

Calvin Worsham, all 6-feet-7 and 235 pounds of him, scored 20 points for CK, operating in the low post with the finesse of a wrecking ball. He went over, around or most likely through any defender who stood in his path and shot 10 free throws in the first half as Stephen Barze, Neil Anderson and Nate Stephens picked up multiple fouls trying to guard him. 

Despite the damage he left in his wake, Worsham was not called for an offensive foul until late in the third period. 

When front-line mates Aaron McClure, Jeremiah Avery and Darien Green weren’t climbing over the Lions for rebounds, CK’s veteran guards were rendering Leo’s kids invisible. Karon Shavers and Brian Kizer, who combined for 22 points against St. Rita, looked very much like freshmen while going scoreless and contributing a passel of turnovers to Leo’s total of 26.

Attacking the basket was so futile for the Lions that they did not have a two-point bucket in the second half. Their 20 points came on six three-pointers and two free throws, two of the eight Leo shot, making five. CK was 10-for-19 at the line.

Coach Jamille Ridley took the loss in stride. “CK got away with some things we were called for, but it happens,” he said. “Plus we were tired. Five games in eight days, practice—that’s a lot of basketball. The younger guys played in the sophomore games as well. They’re exhausted.”

Christ the King competes in the 12-team Chicago Prep Conference with fellow private schools and some Leo-sized charters. The Gladiators are a Class 2-A team like Leo, so a return engagement in the state playoffs is a possibility.

Ridley was thinking beyond February/March.

“It’s a two-year contract, so CK comes to our place next year,” he said. “We’ll smoke ‘em.”