NEW ROCHELLE, NY - Cardinal Hayes looked like world beaters in the 1st half on Tuesday in their game on the road against Iona Prep. They scored 48 points, were up by as many as 22, and looked to be on cruise control.
That is until a big Gaels 3rd quarter run closed the deficit to just 3, and the Cardinals looked vulnerable, but the instant offense of Jemal Smith of the bench helped Hayes finish the quarter on a 12-0 run en route to a 82-71 victory.
It truly was a dominating first half with Angel Florentino scoring 14 points in the opening quarter to see Hayes go up 28-12 after 1. They played swarming pressure defense, and Iona Prep sophomore sensation Matt Ryan picked up 2 early fouls as well to push him to the bench early.
Tom Capuano did all he could to keep the Gaels in the game in the 2nd quarter nailing 3 threes in the period, but the combination of Shavar Newkirk and Chris Robinson on the perimeter scoring driving to the basket was too much as the offensively barrage continued with Hayes taking a 48-34 lead into the break.
The 3rd saw the Cardinals come out flat, they forced up bad shots, and Iona Prep was able to hit its first 8 shots of the quarter to help close the Cardinal Hayes lead to just 56-53 with 2:10 left in the 3rd. Brandon Williams had a chance with 2 free throws to make it a 1 point game, but he was off on both, and Smith came down and hit a three from the left wing. It was his first points of the game, and the start of a 12-0 run to end the quarter that saw Smith score 9 of those points, and the Cardinals regained control up 68-53 after 3.
Williams and Isaiah Ice tried to do all they could getting into the lane and scoring in traffic to bring the Gaels back into the game again, but they only managed to get as close as 11 in the 4th with Newkirk finishing out in transition, scoring 7 points in the 4th and helping Hayes pick up the big road league win over Iona Prep 82-71.
Florentino led Cardinal Hayes with 21 points, 14 of which came in the 1st quarter. Newkirk added 19, with Robinson chipping in 13. Ice and Williams paced Iona Prep with a game high 24 points each.
The 3rd quarter run by Iona Prep almost cost Cardinal Hayes, but they withstood the run and pulled out the win. Hayes coach Joe Lods, while happy with the offensive performance, found other issues with his teams play.
"We came out flat in that 3rd quarter. We didn't bring the same intensity that we started the game with. If I knew why that happened I would fix it and make sure that didn't happen again, but I don't. Lods said. "I mean we put up 82 points so offensively I am happy with what we did, but defensively we still need work."
Newkirk, blamed focus for his team's poor 3rd quarter start, but gave credit to the team's real star of the game.
"We weren't focused, we thought we had the game won and we didn't, but give credit to Jemal Smith, he came in and brought the energy into the game when we needed it at that point." Newkirk said.
Smith was the ultimate spark in what proved to be an impressive offensive performance by one of the CHSAA's best.