Photo courtesy of Manhattan College Athletics.
By David Cordova
Rivalry games are events that make sports very exciting. The fact that two schools are competing against each other for bragging rights and/or a common goal, such as championship always makes things interesting.
In the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, one of the most historic rivalries is Manhattan-Iona. The two schools, which are at least 10 miles apart from each other have been one of the biggest and best rivalries in the New York metropolitan area for decades, with Iona leading the all-time series with a 50-40 edge.
Both teams have also made their mark in the MAAC in recent years, with Manhattan winning the conference title in 2014 and 2015 and Iona winning the title last year. Prior to this game, both teams were in the same boat as far season struggles.
Although the Gaels had a better overall winning record of 10-8, in MAAC play, they were 3-4, while the Jaspers were 7-11 overall, with a 2-5 record in conference play. Now the main question was: Which team would emerge victorious after 40 minutes of basketball in this New York college rivalry? Only one team would walk away with the answer and the victory.
Iona 82, Manhattan 67
From the start of the game, the Jaspers had the momentum, taking a 6-2 lead with 17:11 to go in the first half, as they made smart plays and moved the ball around well. But then the Gaels cut their deficit to 10-7 later on in the half.
Based on the play of junior point guard Zavier Turner, Manhattan then went on to an 18-10 lead with 13:30 to go in the half. But then Iona turned the tide of the game, as they got aggressive on defense and cut their deficit to one, 20-19, with 10:29 to go, after a three-pointer by graduate student Jon Severe.
Throughout most of the first half, it remained a close game, as there were many foul calls and also loose balls that both teams went after. Even though the Gaels stayed on their heels, the Jaspers continued to maintain their lead, until Iona sophomore guard Shadrac Casimir hit a three-pointer with 1:48 left in the half for their first lead of the game at 36-35. The half ended with Iona sophomore guard Rickey McGill hitting a buzzer-beating three-pointer to go to intermission tied at 43-43.
In the opening minutes of the second half, the Gaels turned around their play and made their counterparts pay by hitting shots and drawing fouls and taking a five-point lead, 48-43, with 18:40 to go.
Then Manhattan stormed back to retake the lead, highlighted by a three-pointer by 7-foot-2 junior center Ahmed Ismail to bring them up one, 53-52, with 15:09 left. Moments later, Iona would go on a 12-7 run to bring their lead to six, 65-59, with 8:33 to go after a three-pointer by Casimir.
The Jaspers were not as efficient in this stretch in this part of the second half, as the Gaels seized control of the game, making clutch shots along the way and then building a 77-63 lead with 3:22 left, after a three-pointer by Severe. Manhattan would not recover in this game as Iona would get their fourth victory in MAAC play.
Casimir led the Gaels with 21 points and Severe added 18 points. For the Jaspers, Turner added 20 points and Waterman added 15 points in the loss.