Casimir fuels Iona’s second half surge over St. Peter’s, advances to MAAC Championship

Ryan McFadden, Sports Editor

Note: This article was edited to fix “fourth straight” MAAC championship game to “sixth straight.”

ALBANY- The Iona College men’s basketball team advanced to its sixth straight Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference championship game after beating St. Peter’s 65-62 in the semifinals on Sunday evening.

“I thought our guys came out flat in the first half and we weren’t playing with the type of energy we normally do,” Iona head coach Tim Cluess said. “We’ve been in this situation before and we knew we had a fight left in us.”

Iona’s inconsistent offensive play in the quarterfinals carried into the first half against St. Peter’s as the Gaels had a hard time putting the ball in the basket. After graduate transfer Zach Lewis nailed a three-pointer to tie the game, Iona was held scoreless for the final seven minutes of the first half while St. Peter’s went to a 10-0 run.

St. Peter’s continued giving Iona problems, taking a 39-25 lead with 15:28 to go in the second half.

The tide shifted when junior point guard Schadrac Casimir hit a three-pointer to cut the deficit to single digits. The Gaels converted two more three pointers to make it a two-point game.

Lewis, who started in his second consecutive game, was fouled while making a layup that cut St. Peter’s lead to 54-52.

Casimir had Iona fans on their feet when he knocked down a falling jumper to give the Gaels a 55-54 advantage with 3:14 to go in regulation. It was Iona’s first lead of the game.

St. Peter’s tied the game, but Casimir scored again to put Iona back on top 58-56.

Iona had a strong defensive stand during the final seconds when St. Peter’s guard Nick Griffin missed a contested three-pointer and Casimir stole the ball from Quinn Taylor, who was trying to score before the game clock expired.

“The run we made in the second half came from our defensive energy,” Casimir. “A lot guys came off the bench and gave us energy.”

Casimir finished with a game high 24 points and knocked down four three pointers. Sophomore guard E.J. Crawford tallied 10 points and seven rebounds. Crawford knocked down a corner three pointer to give the Gaels a 61-56 lead less than two minutes to go in the second half.

Lewis scored 12 points on 4-10 shooting, while graduate transfer TK Edogi added eight points and eight boards.

Quinn led St. Peter’s with 19 points and seven rebounds. Forward Samuel Idowu had nine points, 11 rebounds and four blocks.

Iona, a fourth seed, will take on sixth seed Fairfield in the championship game for the first time since 1987.

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