Iona beats St. Edmund for CHSAA 'A' title
Brandon Williams season has had more starts and stops than rush hour traffic on the Hutchinson Parkway.
The beginning of the basketball season was delayed because Williams was a starting receiver for the Iona Prep football team. Then there was one ankle sprain followed by another.
“I had to fight for my spot all season,” Williams said.
On Friday night, Williams had to fight off rallying St. Edmund Prep with a huge performance in the third quarter, helping lead Iona Prep to a 70-54 win in the CHSAA Class A intersectional title game at Fordham’s Rose Hill Gym.
“I think when he gets in flow, he’s dangerous,” Iona Prep coach Vic Quirolo said. “Sometimes he doesn’t always get in that flow. But today he hit stride and he kept going.”
It is Iona Prep’s fourth CHSAA Class A title and second in four years.
“It’s amazing. I’m never probably going to get a feeling like this again,” Iona Prep forward Felix Abongo said. “This doesn’t happen often. We’ve been working for this all season and I’m just really proud of the team.”
The Gaels (23-3) advance to the CHSAA ‘A’ state final and will face the winner of Sunday’s semifinal between St. John the Baptist and Canisius in next weekend’s state final.
“It’s wonderful,” Quirolo said. “Each year is more special because you know how hard it is to get back.”
St. Edmund Prep trailed 32-14 in the first half, but scored the next six points and threatened another second-half comeback. Matt O’Neill, who had 19 points, buried a 3-pointer to pull the Eagles within 10 with 5:44 left in the third. But Williams responded to every big St. Edmund basket with daggers.
The junior guard had 10 of his 18 points in the third quarter, helping the Gaels open up a 15-point advantage going into the fourth quarter.
“He took over the third quarter,” Iona Prep senior forward Felix Abongo said of Williams. “He came to the bench and was like this is my quarter boys, get me the ball. We found him and he was knocking down shots.”
Sophomore Isiah Ice, who had 17 points against St. Edmund Prep, was the hero in Tuesday night’s overtime win against Moore Catholic in the semifinal. On Friday night, it was Williams.
“That’s the beauty of this team, there’s never just one guy,” Quirolo said. “Different players lead in different ways and Williams stepped up today.”
Williams, who said he missed 3-4 games with those ankle injuries, said he just wanted to drive to the lane and make things happen.
“I just wanted to attack the basket,” Williams said. “That’s all I tried to do all season.”
Still, St. Edmund Prep (20-7), which was looking for its first CHSAA Class A title since 2003, wouldn’t go away. Led by O’Neill and Nicky Grasso (19 points), the Eagles battled until the final whistle.
“You can’t say enough about St. Edmund’s effort today,” Quirolo said. “They scrapped, they’re on the boards, second and third shots. They never gave up.”
The same could be said of Williams.
“He played huge tonight,” Abongo said. “He’s been doing that all season for us. He’s a real good player, he knows how to get to the basket. I’m just proud of him.”
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