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There were a few raised eyebrows across the area when Fordham Prep was voted the AA Division of the CHSAA over Iona Prep this offseason. Iona, voted into the A Division, already has a big win over AA Archbishop Malloy and came into Friday’s game with a chip on its shoulder and something to prove.
The Gaels, behind big games from senior Felix Abongo and sophomore Isiah Ice, fended off a late comeback attempt from the Rams to remain undefeated and sent a message to the CHSAA voters with a 57-48 win.
“It was a good game,” Iona coach Vic Quirolo said. “The key to the game was that we shot well, especially at the end. When you hit shots, everything else just seems to fall into place.”
The first quarter was back-and-forth as each team attempted to find their offensive groove. The teams were willing to settle for outside jumpers and the quarter ended tied at 14.
Iona came out strong in the second utilizing their ball-movement skills on offense to keep the Rams off balance and their speed on the defensive perimeter to cut off the Fordham attack. At times Iona brought the ball all the way up the court without it ever touching the floor in impressive displays of passing and went up 26-16 with 4:30 to go.
“I think one of the strengths of our team is our chemistry and how we are pretty unselfish with the ball.” Quirolo said.
Fordham switched to the press at the end of the first half and forced some key Iona turnovers that got them back within five points by the intermission. After the break, juniors Killian Connelly and Sean McNamara ignited a 9-0 run and gave the Rams the 40-39 lead at the end of the third.
That was as close as the Rams would come to victory because in the fourth quarter, Abongo and Ice took over. At 6-3, Abongo usually stays under the hoop but he displayed his range with two three-point shots in the first two minutes and Iona grabbed a five point lead.
“As seniors, we knew it was the last time we would be playing Fordham so we wanted to come out hard,” Abongo said. “Coach just told me to come out real aggressive and not to be afraid to take shots and if you’re open, just let it fly.”
Fordham hung tough and senior guard Jack Becker scored seven points in the fourth but the team went just 2-8 from the free throw line. The troubles at the line allowed Iona’s Isiah Ice to widen the lead with two three-pointers of his own down the stretch, including a dagger with 1:30 left on the clock that put Iona up five.
The young Fordham team played solid defense but couldn’t quite match up with the size and athleticism of Iona. The Gaels are 8-0 and face Regis next in their quest to stay undefeated.