Friday, January 13, 2012
It's Never Over Till It's Over (Recap of Manhattan vs. Iona)
Manhattan was coming off a big win themselves, a hard fought 53-51 win over Fairfield, the team considered by many to be the biggest challenger to Iona. It was a much needed win for the Jaspers after losing two straight conference games. But Manhattan has been playing well as their 10-7 record indicates. I also saw them win impressively at Hofstra. Now the Jaspers were facing their biggest challenge so far this MAAC season.
As Matthew, my friend Tony and I made it into the gym right before the national anthem, I figured Steve Masiello's Manhattan team would be in its typical press defense, considering how Hofstra forced eighteen turnovers on Iona in the first half of their game. But the always intrepid John Templon of Big Apple Buckets correctly predicted that the Jaspers might be better off playing half court defense. And sure enough, the Jaspers settled in half court early in the game not risking a transition game with the Paul Westhead influenced Gaels.
Iona was not done yet from long distance. When Armand went to the bench, Kyle Smyth took his place and just picked up right where he left off from beyond the arc. Smyth canned three three pointers of his own and the Gaels were up 35-20 with three plus minutes left in the half. The Gaels hit nine of sixteen three point attempts in the first half.
However he was far from done. There were eight other assists in the first half. Most of Iona's three pointers were setup by Machado. He also threw some sweet passes inside for layups. The last basket of the half by Randy Dezourve was of course assisted by Machado, who had nine assists in the first twenty minutes alone. The Gaels were up 39-22 at the half and seemed well on their way to another dominating victory.
Manhattan decided in the second half to break out their press. And immediately Iona, thanks to Machado, broke the press for an easy layup to put the Gaels up 46-29 with about seventeen and a half minutes left. There didn't seem to be an answer to shutting down Iona.
Machado kept responding for Iona. He continued to find open Gaels for baskets and the assists were piling up. His fifteenth assist was a pass to Smyth for another three pointer that put Iona back up by seventeen, 65-48 with a little less than eight minutes left. I turned to my friend Tony and said "Dagger", channeling the great Bill Raftery. I thought the game was over.
Manhattan continued to chip away at the lead as they were getting Iona into foul trouble. Glover picked up his fourth foul and now had to be careful inside. And the Jaspers took advantage as Brown and Andujar hit layups. Then Brutus buried a three pointer and Machado picked up his fourth foul. After Andujar hit his two free throws, the Iona lead was down to two, 69-67 with two minutes left and the tension was peaking.
Iona called timeout to try to regroup. But after the timeout, the Gaels seemed to have no clue how to get an open look on Manhattan's zone. With only a couple of seconds left on the shot clock, Smyth forced a three pointer and Manhattan grabbed the rebound. The Jaspers could have taken the lead but Beamon was called for an offensive foul.
Machado then drove the lane and missed a tear drop jumper. His fancy tip in try missed but the ever present Glover was there for the offensive rebound and got hammered when trying the putback. He went to the line but only hit one of two free throws to put Iona up 70-69 with thirty seconds left.
Iona called timeout to setup a play to tie or win the game. With all the Iona fans on the edge of their seat, I am pretty sure the Gaels had not drawn up the prayer that Momo Jones hit with three seconds left. The game was tied at seventy two and the Hynes Center was incredibly loud.
But instead of running out the clock and force overtime, Masiello wisely called timeout with 1.3 seconds left on the clock with the ball at midcourt. My friend Tony turned to me and said "Great timeout". The Jaspers had to either throw an alley oop pass or it was a quick catch and shoot. Tim Cluess wisely put his tallest forward, Taaj Ridley out on the inbounds pass. Manhattan barely got the ball into Andujar before five seconds was called. He turned and with the Iona player directly in his face shot the ball from way beyond the three point line.
The Manhattan players rushed the court and mobbed Andjuar. Outside of the screaming Jaspers' fans, the Gaels' fans were stunned in disbelief. However, the game wasn't over yet, despite all the Manhattan players leaving the court. The officials gathered at the scorers table to review the shot. The Jaspers came back on the court as you could see Masiello apologizing profusely to one official for having sent his players in the locker room.
Iona fans were hoping that the shot went off after the clock hit zero. It took an usually long time to review the shot. I guess the officials wanted to make sure they were right. And finally they made their decision.
The shot was good. Ball game.
Manhattan had completed one of the most amazing comebacks I ever witnessed. The Jaspers outscored the Gaels twenty seven to seven over the last nearly eight minutes of the game. Beamon had twenty one points to lead Manhattan. Brown had a double double with seventeen points and eleven rebounds. And the man of the day, heck maybe the man of the season for Manhattan, Andjuar had fifteen points.
For the Gaels, Glover had eighteen points. Smyth and Armand each had twelve points, all on threes. Finally, Machado had eight points and sixteen assists, but only one assist came in the last almost eight minutes of the game.
It might be the last time I ever say "Dagger" with eight minutes left in a basketball game. I now know better. Yogi Berra was right. "It's never over till it's over."