Ty Jerome was out and Tom Capuano was hampered by two sprained ankles. Still, Iona Prep earned a win it needed, not only advancing to the first Archdiocesan final in program history, but also locking up a double-bye in the upcoming city tournament.
With Jerome out, Patrick Fleming, Nick Brennan and Bryce Wills, a freshman JV call-up from Valhalla, were three of the players who helped pick up the slack. Here’s my story from Tuesday’s game:
NEW YORK – Matt Ryan called Tuesday’s game against St. Peter’s a must-win and with good reason. It would send Iona Prep into perhaps the first CHSAA ‘AA’ Archdiocesan final in program history, but also earn the Gaels a coveted double-bye for the upcoming intersectional tournament.
Although it wasn’t always seamless for Ryan and his team, Iona Prep achieved both objectives. The top-seeded Gaels won their semifinal against No. 5 St. Peter’s 64-53 at Mount St. Michael to clinch a spot in Saturday’s final and that coveted double-bye.
Iona Prep (20-5) will welcome the rest considering Ty Jerome (hip flexor) sat out against St. Peter’s and Tom Capuano had limited mobility because of two throbbing ankles.
“Tonight was a must-win,” said Ryan, who had 19 points and seven rebounds, including 13 points in the first quarter. “That doesn’t mean we’re not going to take the championship for real, but I don’t think Ty’s going to play Saturday, so this will give him more time to rest.”
No. 1 Iona Prep (20-5) will return to Mount at 2:30 Saturday to play No. 3 St. Raymond, then won’t open the intersectional tournament until the quarterfinals on March 8.
Saturday will also mark the program’s first appearance in the ‘AA’ Archdiocesan final after it won the regular season crown for the first time ever.
With Jerome and Capuano both ailing on Tuesday, junior Patrick Fleming contributed 14 points, nine rebounds and three assists against St. Peter’s, playing arguably his best game since returning from a broken wrist earlier this month.
“I feel like my legs are back and my conditioning’s back,” said Fleming, who had been out since December. “I feel like I’m back in the groove.”
Fleming and Nick Brennan (9 points) were key during the second quarter when Ryan and fellow starter Alex Belbusti were saddled with three fouls each.
The Gaels held St. Peter’s to 30 percent shooting, including a 2-for-14 day for star Reilly Walsh. Freshman Bryce Wills, a recent JV call-up from Valhalla, spent large stretches of the game defending Walsh, who entered averaging 25.9 ppg.
“Everything we worked on yesterday (at practice) was to stop him,” coach Vic Quirolo said. “We said, take the No. 1 option out. If the other guys beat you, they beat you.”
CHSAA ‘AA’ Archdiocesan semifinals
At Mount St. Michael:
Iona Prep 64, St. Peter’s 53
St. Raymond 66, Cardinal Hayes 53
CHSAA ‘AA’ Archdiocesan final
At Mount St. Michael:
No. 1 Iona Prep vs. No. 3 St. Raymond, 2:30 p.m.