NEW YORK – For the better part of three quarters Tuesday, Iona Prep had matched St. Raymond point for point. In fact, the Gaels led — albeit by a slim margin — from the opening minutes of the second quarter to the start of the fourth.
“We were looking forward to this game,” Iona Prep sophomore Josh Alexander said. “Everyone was ready to play and I think we came out with good energy.”
But in the heat of the fourth quarter, the Gaels’ legs wilted. No. 3 Iona Prep succumbed to the pressure in the final period and lost its upset bid to No. 2 St. Ray’s, 55-47, in the CHSAA Archdiocesan semifinals at Mount St. Michael.
St. Ray’s (16-10) moved into Saturday’s final here at Mount against the Cardinal Hayes-Stepinac winner. The Gaels (11-15) dropped into the second round of the CHSAA intersectionals. They will play an opponent to be determined on March 2 at St. Francis Prep or March 3 at St. Ray’s.
“I think it was a little bit of everything,” Iona Prep coach Vic Quirolo said. “They’re very athletic and they play hard. They wore us down a little bit physically and mentally a little bit. We were only playing seven guys. It’s tough for four quarters.”
The Gaels started strong behind senior Gio Gabbidon and it continued thanks to the play of their three sophomores — Alexander, Souleymane Koureissi and Bryce Wills. For Wills, it was just his second game since Dec. 29. The Valhalla resident missed the start of the season with a broken ankle and has been out for nearly two months with a ligament injury in the same leg.
Even with Wills’ contributions, Iona Prep was undermanned down the stretch. St. Ray’s opened the fourth quarter with an 11-2 run and held the Gaels to nine points in the period.
“They were wearing us down,” Gabbidon said. “Our ball handlers wore down because of their pressure. We just couldn’t get good enough shots.”
Player of the game: Isaiah Washington, St. Raymond. As the pressure applied to Iona Prep increased, Washington was the beneficiary. The junior guard thrived in transition and poured in 19 of his game-high 25 points in the second half. His dunk with six minutes left gave the Ravens a 40-38 lead and they never trailed again.
Stat line: Sophomore Dallas Watson, who had 11 points, was the only other St. Ray’s player in double figures. … Fleming led Iona Prep with nine points. Gabbidon and Alexander each had eight points and Alexander added a team-high seven rebounds and three assists. … In just his second game since Dec. 29, sophomore Wills had five points, five steals and four blocks off the bench.
Quotable: “I think the pressure really got to us,” Alexander said. “After one turnover happened, it happened repeatedly. It just kept happening. We couldn’t really get a basket because of all their trapping.”