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WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. – Everyone knows that Stepinac’s main weapon is Josh James. The junior guard has multiple Division 1 offers and has transformed into one of the better pure scorers in the CHSAA.
Beyond James, the Crusaders have a trio of guards — Malik Omess, Naim Thomas and Tyler Iacuone — that are valuable pieces and all capable of putting up big numbers in any game.
On Friday night, it was Iacuone’s turn.
The senior guard scored a team-high 18 points on 6-of-12 shooting in Stepinac's 76-59 win over defending NYS CHSAA A champs St. Mary’s of Manhasset.
“I struggled the other night against Xaverian, so I had to pick it up,” said Iacuone, who knocked down two 3-pointers. “They key was to just hit shots. (St. Mary’s) plays that long zone so we just had to attack and kick. We had to knock down shots and we did.”
Iacuone added five rebounds and four assists and did the majority of the ball-handling for Stepinac, allowing James and Omess to run off of screens and get open shots.
“Our guard depth is the key for us,” Stepinac coach Tim Philp said. “It shouldn’t be if Josh has an off night we’re going to lose. We don’t have one X-factor. We are a collective group and any night, any one of our guys could be ‘the guy.'”
James had 11 points and two steals, forward Quarry Greenaway had 10 points and 10 rebounds and center Devino McRae added eight points and 12 rebounds.
“When Tyler gets hot, he’s a big factor in our offense,” James said. “We came up short in our last game (against Xaverian last Friday), so we wanted to come out strong this Friday and get a W.”
Junior James Decker provided a huge spark for Stepinac in the second quarter, hitting three straight 3-pointers to power a 9-1 Crusaders run. The guard/forward’s scoring binge might have been the key to the game, as St. Mary’s had just pulled within three points before Decker broke the game wide-open.
“Decker can shoot the ball,” Philp said. “He’s got to continue to be confident in his shot because he can clearly be a game-changer. Without those three shots it could have been a completely different outcome.”
The Crusaders both outshot and out-rebounded St. Mary’s and also forced 11 more turnovers in what might have been Stepinac’s best game of the year.
“We played balanced and didn’t let their zone put us to sleep,” Philp said. “If teams are going to come in to our gym and play a zone, we’re going to have to be able to knock down open shots but at the same time not force anything. We did a good job of that tonight.”
Wilson Molina of St. Mary’s led all scorers with 24 points and freshman Jessie Govan had 13 points and eight rebounds.
Stepinac faces All Hallows next at home on Tuesday and then hosts powerhouse Cardinal Hayes on Friday. The two league games will certainly be a test for the Crusaders, who just moved up into the CHSAA AA division.
“I told the guys, ‘This is a great win tonight, but we’ve got to get down to business for these next two’,” Philp said. “Division league games are so important and these two are going to be really big. They’re two great teams so we have to be ready to play. You always do in AA.”
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