Here’s my story on Iona Prep’s victory tonight in the CHSAA intersectionals:
NEW YORK — Vic Quirolo scanned the locker room and saw the same face again and again. His team had just closed strong to win its first CHSAA AA playoff game. Was it ugly? Sure, but, considering the circumstance, who cared?
“I think they were a little upset after the game. We walked in the locker room and their faces were kind of down,” Quirolo said. “I said, ‘Guys, you’re a young team that just won a playoff game. Be happy.’”
Although not necessarily pleased with their play, the Gaels will certainly be satisfied to advance to Sunday’s quarterfinal round at Fordham University. They secured a spot against Brooklyn power Bishop Loughlin with Thursday night’s 45-36 victory in the CHSAA’s intersectional tournament over stubborn St. Francis Prep at Christ the King.
With leading scorer Matt Ryan cold and the team slogging through a 4-for-18 game from 3-point land, Iona Prep (14-13) still thrived defensively, holding St. Francis Prep (3-17) to just 36 percent shooting.
“We always think from a defensive standpoint,” said Tom Capuano, a sophomore guard from Hastings. “Our shots weren’t falling, but that’s why we always practice so much on our defense. We can rely on our defense. If our shots aren’t falling, we can still put ourselves in position to win.”
Capuano, Ryan and the rest of the young Gaels delivered late, reversing one of their midseason weaknesses by closing strong with the lead. Their edge was a tenuous 27-24 entering the fourth quarter, but Capuano (10 points and five assists) and freshman Ty Jerome (nine points off the bench) produced key plays.
So did Ryan. The 6-foot-6 sophomore threw a no-look pass for a Capuano layup. The next possession he made his only field goal, swishing a 15-footer for a 37-29 lead with 2:46 to play.
“Matt’s a great shooter. He’s a big part of our offense. But everyone has the game where they’re not hitting shots,” said Jerome, an Eastchester resident whose midseason call-up has been vital in Iona Prep winning seven of its last nine. “We had to pick up some slack for him. It was ugly, but we were able to do it in the fourth.”
One of the Gaels’ only losses during that stretch was a 72-56 defeat to Loughlin on Feb. 12. They’ll meet again Sunday at 2:45 p.m. at Fordham as part of a quadrupleheader.
Stepinac will face St. Raymond at 1 p.m.
Cardinal Hayes will face Archbishop Molloy at 4:30 p.m. Christ the King and St. Peter’s are scheduled to meet at 6:15 p.m.