BRONX, NY - When NYCHoops.net #4 ranked Cardinal Hayes was down to un-ranked Iona Prep in their Archdiocese of New York semifinal game at Mt. St. Michael on Tuesday by a 58-52 score with just over 3 minutes to go, there was a sense that the Cardinals were really going to be knocked off, but led by 5 seniors, and a sharpshooting sophomore, Hayes stayed patient, and fought back to take it in overtime over the Gaels, 70-64.
"I was proud because despite all of the big shots they kept making, we never got deflated."
Those were the thoughts of Hayes head coach Joe Lods, who saw Iona Prep guards Tom Capuano and Ty Jerome make shot after shot, seemingly giving every reason for Cardinal Hayes, who finally lost their first game of the season last week, to quit. Getting down 6 with 3 minutes to go would be the end for most teams, but according to Cardinals senior guard Shavar Newkirk, they are not most teams.
"Most teams down 3 or 5 with a couple minutes to go will give the game away, because they don't want to fight back," Newkirk stated. "For us though, we have been together for so long that the chemistry we have, we can just look at each other and know to turn it on."
Turn it on is what they did as Newkirk scored 4 straight points, and then a runner along the baseline by senior Jemal Smith while getting fouled, gave Hayes the lead back and punctuated a 9-0 run to see them go up 61-58 with just seconds to go in regulation.
Jerome though played the role of hero, nailing a three from the right wing to help send the game into overtime, and Iona Prep, even without star Matt Ryan who is out for the season with torn labrums in both hips, had a shot as the game moved to OT.
Clive Allen though, the stud sophomore, knocked down a three from the wing to open the scoring in the OT session, and Hayes never really was threatened after that as the shooting touch that Iona had for the whole game until this point, seemed to disappear, and Allen's big shot was not lost on Newkirk, who said he considers Allen a little brother.
"He means a lot to me. I know he looks up to me so I try and get him involved," Newkirk said. "He's a bit like J.R. Smith, he just wants to fire away, so I told him to get open and I will get him the ball and that's what happened."
Allen hit the big shot, and Hayes comfortably controlled the OT session to walk away 70-64 winners.
Newkirk led the way for Hayes with 20 points, while Mustafa Jones added 14, with Chris Robinson and Allen each tallying 11 a piece as well in the win.
Three players so basically all of Iona Prep's points, with Jerome leading the team scoring 23, and Capuano adding 22.
For Lods though, he expected a grind, understanding how tough and physical the Gaels are, but for the coach, a win is a win, and it gets them one step closer to where they want to be.
"Our goal was Division, Diocese, and City, so we still have a shot, and this time of year, it's survive and advance anyway, so we did what we needed to do."
St. Peter's Preys On St. Raymond, 68-57
The Eagles of Staten Island, NY went on a 15-0 run from midway through the 1st quarter into the 2nd and never really looked back en route to the comfortable 11 point victory.
Latrell Curtis controlled the game early, attacking the basket using both hands, and then it was Jamir Ferebee who had 17 of his 22 points in the 2nd half, as the Ravens never got it closer than 9 at any point in the 2nd half.
St. Peter's coach Charlie Driscoll felt like his team was good, believing before the season that they could do special things, but even he said he was surprised a bit by just now well they have performed, but at this point, nothing is shocking him anymore.
"We thought we could compete, but maybe not like this," Driscoll said. "Now though it's like why not us?"
They contained and controlled Ravens big man Luis Santos, holding him to just 13 points, and the way they were able to dominate really boiled down to gaining confidence against a team they always struggled against.
"I don't know how long it's been since we have beaten them," Curtis said. "When we lost to them earlier this season it was close, and normally we lost to St. Ray's by 15 or 20 points, so keeping it close gave us the belief and confidence we needed."
Curtis had a game high 25 points for the Eagles, while Ferebee had 22, and lead guard Glenn Sanabria added 14, while leading the point masterfully.
Santos and Brandon Adams each had 13 points to lead the way for the Ravens in the disappointing performance after coming in winners 6 out of their last 7.
St. Peter's will now advance to face Cardinal Hayes on Saturday at 2pm back at Mount St. Michael for the Archdiocese of NY championship, and with the Eagles being the only team to take down the Cardinals this season, they know they will get Hayes's best effort, but Driscoll believes his kids will be up for the challenge as the school looks for their first ever Archdiocese title.
"I'm sure they have a chip on their shoulder and will be ready for us," Driscoll admitted. "They are a great team and whatever happens Saturday happens, but we have a fighters chance. It should be a good one."