BRONX, NY - It was a doubleheader at Mt. St. Michael on Tuesday night as the CHSAA Archdiocese of New York Semifinals were held. St. Raymond took on St. Peter's in the opener, while Cardinal Hayes faced off with Iona Prep in the nightcap.
With each game having so much of the line you expected to get each team's best, but in the end the higher seeded teams proved to be too much winning their games in convincing fashion.
St. Raymond Tops St. Peter's 68-56
The game really was not as close as the final score indicates as St. Raymond took the game to St. Peter's from the very start. Luis Santos, the Ravens big 6'8" force on the middle came out of the gates hot with 5 rebounds and 5 blocks in the opening quarter, which St. Ray's coach Jorge Lopez said was what he wanted to see.
"We said we wanted to set the tone early on, and Luis went out there and did a tremendous job on the boards, and a tremendous job blocking shots and he established a big time defensive presence early. That ended up being contagious because everyone else stepped up as well." Lopez said
It was a big time defensive start as the Ravens only gave up 11 first quarter points. They continued to stifle the Eagles in the 2nd with junior Glenn Sanabria being the only offensive weapon that St. Peter's could depend on. He had 14 of his teams 25 first half points, but St Ray's seemed comfortably in control up 41-25 at the break.
The Ravens lead grew to as much as 20 in the 3rd with Jaquan McKennon and Tory Ferguson using their quickness to blow by the Eagle defenders. Santos was able to control the paint, but Lopez always had a hunch that St. Peter's was not to be counted out.
"Coach Charlie Driscoll always gets the best out of his kids and they struggled to hit shots but we knew sooner than later they would make a run."
The run came to start the 4th. With St Raymond up 19 to start the quarter, the Eagles went on a 12-0 run in the first 3 minutes of the quarter behind back to back threes by Sunday's hero Ryan Kennedy. Driscoll at that point believed his team had a chance to fight all the way back.
"It's not always easy to play with a big lead. We started getting confident and they got tight and I thought we had a shot." Driscoll said.
The St. Peter's hopes were done in thought by poor FT shooting and McKennon who scored 6 points in the closing minutes to seal the deal for the Ravens as they won 68-56 to head back to the Archdiocese of New York Championship game.
McKennon led St. Raymond with 20 points, while Ferguson added 19, and Santos put in 12 points, 8 rebounds, and 7 blocks.
Sanabria led all scorers with 23 for St. Peter's who were without the services of leading scorer Latrell Curtis who was out with the flu, a tough break for the scrappy Eagles.
It was the Ravens night though and the team has shown heart and character to get to the title game after just coming off a 6 game losing streak, but McKennon said even during that tough streak, the team knew they would climb out of it.
"We were in a slump. We were playing hard but the shots weren't falling, but we didn't worry about it, we just kept working hard and we had the confidence to know we would snap out of it." McKennon said.
Lopez, who is in his first year in charge if the varsity team for St. Ray's believed in the team as well and admitted that the goals were clear coming into the season, and that the track of those goals are still on course.
"The goal from the start of the year was to defend the city championship, and now we are in a situation to get the #1 seed in the intersectionals which will help us achieve what we expected."
McKennon may have said it best though.
"We aren't done yet." the sophomore said. "The title is what we want."
Cardinal Hayes Wallops Iona Prep 57-34
The nightcap started out close with Iona Prep leading for much of the 1st quarter, but the defensive intensity stepped up for the Cardinals allowing just 19 points in the final 3 quarters to dominate defensively and take home the comfortable win.
It was a sloppy start for Hayes though as they settled for jump shots and seemed to struggle early on with the physical-ness of the Gaels, something that concerned Cardinals head coach Joe Lods.
"Iona is probably the best defensive team we faced all year. They are always in the right spot, are very physical, and are well coached. They made us shoot jumpers early on and they weren't falling so we struggled." Lods said.
It was still a tight game at the half because of that with Hayes only up 25-21, and even though both teams shot poorly, both played solid enough defensively to still have a chance.
It was a different Hayes team coming out of the locker room though. They pressured the ball more, caused turnovers and rushed shots, and were not settling. Instead they were getting to the basket and getting easier chances, something star guard Shavar Newkirk noted.
"Our shots weren't falling and I was struggling but we as a team made a better effort to get to the basket and play strong defense which helped us a lot." Newkirk said.
It did as they outscored Iona Prep 17-9 in the 3rd to take a 12 point lead into the 4th.
In the 4th, the Hayes defense continued to look impressive holding Iona to only 4 points en route to the 57-34 win.
Chris Robinson scored 7 of his game high 14 points in the 4th to help put the Gaels away, while Newkirk tallied 13 as well in the win.
No one on Iona Prep got into double digits with Brandon Williams leading the way with 8.
Apart of Hayes' game plan was to limit and control Iona swingman Matt Ryan who Lods called "the best shooter in the Catholic league." That plan worked to perfection as they held the super sophomore to just 6 points on 0 of 8 shooting from behind the arc. Ryan's rough shooting night, along with the speed of Hayes were reasons Iona coach Vic Quirolo felt his team was done in.
"There quickness on the perimeter just knocked us out of any rhythm we had early on. When you play a team the caliber of Hayes and you struggle shooting like that, it's going to be tough." Quirolo said.
With the win Hayes moves on to Saturday's Archdiocese title game to face St. Ray's, and with the first 2 meetings this year having been classics, Lods expects no less this time around.
"Last time we played them I needed a blood pressure pill." Lods said jokingly. "We've had a great year, and they've had a great year. We'll be prepared, and they'll be prepared. It's good for the league and great kids for the kids and it should be another excellent game."
It definitely should be as these Bronx rivals meet for a 3rd time this season, this time with the Archdiocese of New York title on the line, Saturday at 2pm at Mt. St. Michael.
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