For the better part of nine games, every possession seemed like a struggle for Iona Prep. That will happen for a team playing without two of the area’s top recruits, but sophomore Ty Jerome showed again Tuesday just how much of a difference he has made.
In his third game back from injury, the 6-foot-3 point guard distributed with aplomb on Tuesday, recording 18 points and six assists as Iona Prep beat St. Francis Prep 64-54 to stay alive in the CHSAA AA intersectional tournament.
Stepinac later saw its season end in a 73-71 loss to Holy Cross.
Jerome, who tore a ligament in his shooting hand last month, returned from a nine-game absence on Feb. 16. He helped Iona Prep avenge two regular-season losses to Stepinac and nearly led an upset of top-ranked Cardinal Hayes two days later.
“I was so anxious to get back,” Jerome said. “Since I got back, everything’s gotten better. We got together.”
After squandering a 15-point lead, Seamus Grogan (8 points, 9 rebounds) and Capuano delivered key plays down the stretch. Senior Isaiah Ice added 11 points and junior Qaadir Sheppard chipped in eight.
Now, Iona Prep (15-13) will play the top seed from Brooklyn/Queens, Bishop Loughlin, Sunday at Fordham University as part of a quadrupleheader slated to begin at 1.
“Since the playoffs started, we’ve been playing our best basketball,” Capuano said. “It’s all clicking at the right time.”
Stepinac (11-16) seemed to find a similar formula in the second half against Holy Cross. Key plays by junior Damarcus Miller and seniors Walter King and Naim Thomas gave the Crusaders a 71-68 lead into the final minute, but they fouled on three straight possessions down the stretch.
Holy Cross’ Jermaine Bishop converted a three-point play with 17.3 to go for the lead. Thomas, who had 13 points and eight assists, missed on an ensuing drive, but Stepinac retained possession.
King, who had team-highs of 23 points and 11 rebounds, had his shot blocked by Keanu Jean-Gilles on a baseline drive just before the buzzer.
“They both had great careers. Naim finished 20 points short of 1,000. Walter had a great senior year,” coach Steve Herman said. “I wouldn’t want the ball in anybody else’s hands. Our two seniors took our last shots. They just didn’t go down.”