Manhattan can't hold back Iona in MAAC title game
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- Manhattan started the season with 14 losses in its first 19 games and ended it four points shy of the NCAA tournament.
The sixth-seeded Jaspers lost to rival Iona 60-57 on Monday night in the MAAC championship game.
Michael Alvarado had 14 points for Manhattan (14-18), which lost despite holding the Gaels 21 points below their average.
"This team has grown more than anyone outside that locker room knows, said coach Steve Masiello. "What this team has been through is unbelievable."
The Jaspers led for much of the game and were up by five in the second half a 17-2 run by the Gaels, who their eighth MAAC title but first since 2006. The victory also gives Iona 20 wins for the fourth consecutive season.
"They made a memory of a lifetime for myself, and hopefully one in their lifetime for them," said coach Tim Cluess.
Manhattan led at halftime and was up 35-30 in the second half before Iona went on its run. A layup by Sean Armand gave the Gaels their first lead of the half at 37-35 with just over 13 minutes left.
Armand picked up his fourth foul just over a minute later, sending the team's second-leading scorer to the bench. Iona then put the ball in Jones' hands and his off-balance jumper made it 43-37.
A short time later, Massiello picked up a technical foul after two warnings for coming out on the court. Jones hit the free throws, and Taaj Ridley extended the lead to 47-37 with a pair of foul shots.
But Ridley was forced to take a seat on the bench when he picked up his fourth foul with more than 8 minutes left.
But the Jaspers could not get a rebound on the other end. A pair of foul shots by Bowman made it 58-52 and a steal and dunk by David Laury sealed it.
"Longest 30 seconds of my life," said Armand.
The game was played at Manhattan's pace. Iona came in averaging more than 81 points, while the Jaspers were holding opponents to just under 61.
Manhattan missed its first six shots, but Iona made just two of its first seven and led 4-3 at the first media timeout.
The Jaspers used an 8-0 run to turn an 18-13 deficit into a 21-18 lead and quickly pushed it to six, but a jump shot by Jones just before the halftime buzzer cut the lead to 26-24.
Iona is hoping for some redemption after the Gaels wasted a 25-point lead in a first-round loss to BYU in last year's NCAAs.
"We worked hard, don't get me wrong, last year; had a heck of a schedule and got handed an at-large our bid because of our hard work," said senior Sean Armand. "This year, I told the guys I really want to make it because we earned that spot."
The New York rivals, whose campuses are separated by less than 10 miles, were meeting for the 82nd time but had never met in the championship game. They split two meetings during the regular season, including a double-overtime thriller won by Manhattan at home on Feb. 14.
Manhattan made its run to the final without its best player, guard George Beamon, who played just four games this season after suffering a severe ankle injury in the season opener.
The Jaspers had won seven of their last nine coming in, and the two losses were by a total of four points.
"We'll look back on this day and cherish it," said Massiello. "And this will be the fuel to Manhattan's future."
Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press
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