Iona Prep entered the weekend on a nine-game winning streak, stamping it as a serious contender for the CHSAA city title. But what the Gaels did Saturday night may have changed the conversation entirely.
Iona Prep won 64-50 at defending league and Federation state champ Christ the King behind 24 points from Virginia commit Ty Jerome, 15 points and six rebounds from senior Tom Capuano and 12 points and 10 rebounds from Notre Dame signee Matt Ryan.
So are the Gaels (16-3), winners of 10 straight, the new favorite?
“Of course,” said Ryan, whose team is unbeaten since Dec. 28. “We think we’re the best team in the league. We just have to win out now. I think tonight was our 10th win in a row. I don’t think we should lose another game in the league. We just have to keep winning and we’ll be all right.”
During its winning streak, Iona Prep has beaten fellow contenders Cardinal Hayes, St. Raymond and now Christ the King, all by double figures.
The Gaels built a 28-21 lead by halftime and were up 11 points after three quarters. Their defense took five charges, including two by Gio Gabbidon.
Senior Alex Belbusti added nine points and five rebounds. He banked in a 3-pointer to give Iona Prep a 52-43 lead with 2:43 left. The shot followed a 6-0 spurt by Christ the King (15-5).
“I think we had contributions from everyone tonight,” Jerome said. “Gio took two charges. Tom was awesome on defense. Alex made big shots. We were just so connected as a team.”
Jerome and Capuano defended Christ the King junior Rawle Alkins, one of the top juniors in the country. As a team, Iona Prep focused on forcing the Royals to shoot from the perimeter, holding them to their second-lowest point-total of the season. (Christ the King scored 49 in a loss to Xaverian on Jan. 4.)
“We got into them, which they’re not used to,” Ryan said. “When they play teams, they lay off, they basically play Christ the King on the jersey instead of who’s on the court. We didn’t go in there to play. We went in there to win the ball game.”
“I think it was a statement game,” Jerome said. “It shows us and gives us the confidence as to how good we can be.
“I don’t know if it makes us the favorite. Of course, in our minds, we’re the favorite because we think we can beat anyone at any time. But we just want to come out to practice tomorrow and keeping playing together.”