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December 4, 2013

Cardinal Hayes vs. Iona Prep

NEW ROCHELLE, NY - Cardinal Hayes was opening up their season Tuesday when they travelled up to New Rochelle to take on Iona Prep in an important early season league game.

The Cardinals are thought by some to be the top team in the CHSAA this season, and they wanted to make a point of showing just how good they really are, while Iona Prep lost to St. Francis Prep on Friday and didn't want to start the season 0-2.

The Gaels were playing without the services of Matt Ryan, as the 6'6" junior sharpshooter was out with an illness, but his Iona Prep teammates looked strong in the early going, going up by as many as 11 to start, but Hayes figured out a way to break the Iona press, and once the Cardinals installed their own pressure defense, the young Gaels really struggled. Ultimately, Cardinal Hayes pulled away in the 2nd half for a 63-50 victory.

The defense really set the tone for Iona Prep in the early going. They sat back in a 2-3 zone and challenged the Cardinals to shoot. They got off some good looks, but the shots weren't falling, and while they struggled to find the bottom of the nets, the Gaels, and more specifically, sophomore guard Ty Jerome, were getting out in transition, and scoring easy baskets. The sluggish start by Hayes, combined with Jerome's early brilliance, saw Iona, even without Ryan, lead Hayes, 16-5, which was something that floored Cardinals head coach Joe Lods.

"I was surprised. If you had told me we would only score 5 points in the 1st quarter I would've thought you were out of your mind," Lods said after the game.

They were though, and while they weren't getting much offense from the starting 5 early on, Lods called in for his bench, and they seemed to spark the tide to turn things around. Jeff Hayden, a junior who was on the JV squad last year, Reggie Quezada and Kashif Davis, all gave solid valuable minutes, and once Hayes applied the pressure defense, it really seemed to create havoc.

Chris Robinson was the focal point of the 2-2-1 trap that Hayes applied in the backcourt as it really seemed to rattle Iona Prep's guards, especially since Isiah Ice and Tom Capuano were stuck on the bench with 2 early fouls each. Jerome was left to be the only primary ballhandler, and even when they broke the press, Robinson seemed to really stifle Jerome, keeping him in check after the first quarter, and showing off impressive defensive skills. The offense picked up as well, and Hayes finished the half on an 11-0 run to take their first lead of the game into the half, 22-20.

The 11-0 run by Hayes to close the half spilled into the 3rd quarter when Shavar Newkirk, the St. Joseph's bound senior point guard hit a three from the left wing, and then Robinson nailed a three of his own from the left corner, and it was then a 28-20 lead for the Cardinals.

Iona Prep wasn't going to let the game get out of hand though. Ice scored on a nice reverse driving down the left baseline to break the run, and while Jerome wasn't getting good looks to score, he was facilitating the game beautiful and showing off why he is considered one of the best young playmakers in the area. The deficit for the Gaels was just 39-32 after 3, but they needed to hit perimeter shots to truly have a chance.

The perimeter shots they needed did start falling as Capuano hit on three 3's in the 4th quarter, but even when Hayes wasn't finishing, they were getting 2nd and 3rd chances, using a superior height advantage to dominate the glass with Nathan Ekwu and Mustafa Jones, a pair of 6'7" seniors scoring on putback after putback late to really shut the door on any Iona Prep comeback attempt as the Cardinals may not have looked as crisp and solid as they wanted, but they pulled out the hard fought 63-50 win.

Newkirk led all scorers with 19 points for Cardinals Hayes, while Robinson tallied 13 of his own in the win for the Cardinals.

Jerome and Capuano each paced the way for Iona Prep with 13 points apiece, while gritty 2 sport star, junior Qaadir Sheppard, who is also a standout on the football team for the Gaels, had 12.

Lods, who said he was happy about the win because of how tough it is to win in the Catholic League, said he was disappointed with the performance because the team came out flat, and he said the vibe in the locker room after the game did not reflect that of a winning team.

"If you had been in the locker room you would have thought we lost. It was just a deflated feeling. We just need to play harder," Lods said.

Newkirk, who is one of the top players in the city, said the staff warned them about lack of intensity, especially with Ryan out of the lineup, but that for some reason they didn't do as they were told, something he added will not happen again.

"Our coaches told us no matter what we have to come out with intensity, but we came out sluggish instead. It's the 1st game of the season and that shouldn't happen, but I promise it won't happen again," Newkirk emphatically stated.

Iona Prep coach Vic Quirolo, said he knew the Gaels would be without Ryan yesterday, but that he didn't change anything up because of his star's absence. He was proud of the effort in this one, and said if not for foul issues, it may have been a different ball game.

"We dictated the play early on with our trap, but then Capuano and Ice got in foul trouble, and they started to really pressure us more, and with just Ty as a ballhandler in their it hurt us and they finished the half strong. If we didn't have the foul issues and instead if an 11-0 run to end the half, maybe it's just a 6-0 run, who knows, I think we could've been in it to the end," Quirolo said.

That didn't happen though and Hayes did pull away late, but there were certainly a lot of things for the Hayes coaches to go back and work on, but ultimately Lods hopes this game serves as a statement for his players.

"We got the win, but I truly hope this is a wakeup call for everybody, because we need to play better."

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