Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Iona: 2016-17 Metro Atlantic Men's Basketball Champions



ALBANY, N.Y. -- Jordan Washington played his way through major foul trouble -- all the way to the NCAA tournament.

Washington had 21 points and 10 rebounds, freshman E.J. Crawford had a tiebreaking layup in overtime and Iona topped Siena 87-86 on Monday night to win the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference title for the second straight time.

Despite playing with four fouls for more than 13 minutes, Washington exerted himself in the tense extra period, hitting a tough scoop shot and four free throws around Crawford's clutch basket with 27.2 seconds left.

"My coaches said to just keep playing hard," said Washington, who was named tournament MVP. "I had to do what I had to do. I'm still emotional right now. We don't stop until [the clock] hits zero and that's what we did."

Marquis Wright hit a 3 at the final buzzer as Siena came up just short.

"Life's a funny thing," Siena coach Jimmy Patsos said. "Sometimes, you just don't get that extra bounce."

Iona (22-12) won its MAAC-record 10th title and improved to 9-0 against Siena in the conference tournament. Fourth-seeded Siena (17-17) advanced to the conference championship game for the first time in seven years.

Beating the Saints again on their home court made the championship more special for Iona, which split regular-season games with Siena, each team winning on the road.

"We said if we can win in this environment, this will be one that you remember forever," Iona coach Tim Cluess said. "The place is packed, everyone's against you. These guys can remember it's an overtime game, on the road, with 7,000 or 8,000 [fans] screaming against you."

Deyshonee Much had 18 points for Iona, and Rickey McGill finished with 14.

Wright finished with 29 points. Javion Ogunyemi had 16 points and 10 rebounds for the Saints, and Brett Bisping added 16 points and 14 rebounds before fouling out in the final seconds.

"Right now, it hurts," Bisping said. "I mean, I'm really proud. We really fought. I can honestly say I think everyone gave it everything they had tonight, and you can live with that."

Trailing by a basket at the break, the Gaels tied it at 40 when McGill drained an open 3 from the corner early in the second half. Schadrac Casimir and Much followed with two more from beyond the arc and a layup by Much gave the Gaels a 50-44 lead with 16:44 left.

When McGill rattled in another 3 from the top of the key, Iona led 57-48 and seemed ready to pull away.

Bispring responded with a pair of 3s and Wright swished another from long range, part of an 11-0 run that gave the Saints a two-point lead.

Neither team led by more than five the rest of the game, which was tied five times in the final 7:11 of regulation. Bisping sent the game into overtime by hitting a pair of free throws with 13.7 seconds left.


To have a shot at the title, the Saints had to defend the perimeter against the Gaels, who had made 323 shots from beyond the arc, seventh in the NCAA. Siena opened an eight-point lead midway through the opening half as the Gaels missed their first six 3-point attempts.

Iona erased the deficit quickly, getting 3s in a 34-second span from Casimir and Crawford to spark a 10-0 run. A hook in the lane by Washington gave the Gaels a 25-23 lead, their first of the game.

BIG PICTURE

Iona: Cluess has led the Gaels to the title game five straight times, a conference record. He is 12-4 against Patsos.

Siena: The Saints have lost eight straight to Iona on their home court at the Times Union Center after winning 11 of the first 12.

UP NEXT

Iona awaits its opponent for the NCAA tournament.

Siena's season is likely over.
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