Stepinac beats Gaels in double OT
WHITE PLAINS -- For four quarters and the better part of two overtimes, this seemed like a basketball game neither team wanted to win. Fouls, missed free throws and turnovers -- both forced and unforced -- made one point feel like 10.
Stepinac's Conroy Baltimore puts up a shot against Iona Prep's Tim McCarthy during the Crusaders' 61-55 win in double overtime Friday.
So with under 10 seconds to play and Stepinac clinging to a two-point lead, a waltz between two defensive teams took its last step.
Senior James Chillemi stepped between Felix Abongo and James Gallery for a steal. Seconds later, two free throws by Julien Wright sealed a 61-55 victory for host Stepinac over its rival, Iona Prep.
It was the Crusaders' first win in seven tries head-to-head. The Gaels had won the last six, including every game when any player on either team had been on the court.
"It's a great win," said Stepinac senior Conroy Baltimore, who led the Crusaders with 17 points, 20 rebounds and five blocks. "Our varsity hasn't beat Iona in three years, and these seniors have never beat them, so for us it was a great win."
Iona Prep led much of the game, but never by much. The teams traded leads deep into the fourth quarter until Baltimore scored to give Stepinac a 47-44 lead with 2:15 to play.
Gaels senior Charles Ntumba, playing his first game all season, sank a stunning 3-pointer from the right wing with 30 seconds to play to tie the score.
Ntumba tore his meniscus playing pick-up basketball over the summer. It really began to bother him during the fall and he eventually had surgery on Dec. 17.
"I'm rusty, so I have to give my teammates the credit for getting me that open shot," Ntumba said.
He was forced into playing major minutes because Iona Prep faced severe foul trouble. Starting forward Tim McCarthy fouled out early in the fourth quarter and starting guard Brandon Williams followed him to the bench in overtime.
Still, the Gaels had chances to pull an upset. They entered the game as an underdog after graduating all five starters, including three Division I players.
That didn't matter. After falling behind by five points in overtime, a free throw by Abongo with 38.6 seconds tied the score at 52-52.
In those final seconds of the first overtime, Stepinac turned the ball over twice and Iona Prep turned it over once. Ultimately, senior Ben Borsellino had an open 3 to win the game at the buzzer, but it rimmed out.
Stepinac went ahead for good in the second overtime on a running bank shot from inside the paint by Chillemi with 1:15 to play. He then made the steal in the final seconds and was intentionally fouled by Borsellino at half court. Chillemi missed the two free throws, but Wright made 4 of 4 from the line and finished 16 points.
"I just told them that whenever Stepinac and Iona play it doesn't matter what your roster is, it's always a war," Crusaders coach Tim Philp said. "All you want is a victory."
Gallery, a senior guard, led Iona Prep with 21 points. He hit a buzzer-beater to give his team a 19-18 halftime lead.