WHITE PLAINS – Three minutes. Always the final three minutes.
Before Friday night’s Stepinac-Iona Prep basketball game, Stepinac coach Patrick Massaroni was talking about his team’s 4-7 record and how the last three minutes had done in his team in six of those games.
Well, make it seven.
Iona Prep, which trailed by 13 points at the end of the first quarter, 10 at the half and four at the end of three quarters, got its first lead with less than two minutes remaining, then held on for a 53-51 win before a capacity crowd at Stepinac.
The Gaels, who managed just seven first-quarter points, thanks to both their poor shooting and Stepinac’s relentless defense, were led by Nick Brennen’s 13 points and Josh Alexander’s and Patrick Fleming’s 12.
Player of the game: Brennen’s scoring included two big second-half 3-pointers.
“We were a little shaky in the beginning but we knew if we stuck with it we would come back strong,” he said.
Iona Prep (7-4) played without Virginia-bound point guard Ty Jerome (hip problems) and starting sophomore guard Bryce Willis, whose foot growth-plate problem graduated to a ligament problem.
Turning point: Down by six early in the fourth quarter, the Gaels hit three straight baskets to tie the score.
Joe Lupetin shook off a defender and drove the lane for two. Then after a hustling offensive rebound by Geo Gabbidon, Fleming hit a layup to cut it to a two-point game. With 3:59 left, Lupetin then hit another layup to tie things at 46-46.
Alexander gave the Gaels their first lead with 1:52 to play, grabbing his own rebound and scoring to make it 50-48.
Stat line: Jordan Tucker, whose 3-point try in the last 15 seconds hit the back of the rim, and Aundre Hyatt each had 15 for hard-luck Stepinac, which earlier lost to powerhouse Christ the King and Long Island Lutheran by a combined eight points.
Quotable: “We knew if we played smart, played aggressive and stayed focused our shots were going to start to fall,” said Brennen.
Of Stepinac, now 4-8, he added, “They’re a good team. Their record doesn’t really mean anything.”