WHITE PLAINS — The best laid plans of mice and basketball coaches sometimes work.
Before Friday night’s boys basketball game between rivals Stepinac and Iona Prep, Crusaders coach Tim Philp talked about his desire to never let the Gaels’ Matt Ryan feel comfortable.
That seemed like a tall order given the 6-foot-6 star’s inside game.
But, alternating coverage, James Decker (two points) and Andrew Murray (10), limited the super sophomore and future D-I recruit to two points each quarter as Stepinac strolled past the Gaels 57-37.
With the win — the second for the Crusaders over the Gaels this season — Stepinac claimed the Brother William Stoldt Trophy.
“Our defense was key and our conditioning played a big part, too, as we were able to play that (upbeat) tempo for four quarters,” Philp said.
Before the game, Iona Prep coach Vic Quirolo worried about just that — Stepinac’s “D” and speed.
The game was a marked departure from the last time the two teams met — a six-point Stepinac win.
Stepinac (11-3) got a big 10 points from junior guard Naim Thomas.
The Crusaders were up only 16-12 at the end of one but pulled ahead 31-21 at the half.
First-half highlights included two Thomas 3-pointers and a hustling offensive rebound by Stepinac’s Malik Omess, who then fed Andrew Murray for an inside two.
Omess was technically kept off the scoreboard but the little guard had a huge game, finding the open man.
“I like to be involved and to be unselfish,” Omess said. “It means a lot to get this second win against this team. It’s a rivalry every year. The coach told us to grind it out.”
Iona Prep (7-9) was led by Sheamus Grogan, who scored nine points. Besides Ryan’s eight, Brandon Williams and Isiah Ice had seven each.
Before the game, Philp said, “I told the seniors about every home game the seniors play, ‘It’s the last time you’ll ever play that team at home as a senior, so you’ve got to leave everything out on the floor.’ ”
The Crusaders’ fans tried to do their part, too, serenading missed Gaels layups and, of course, Ryan.
But the chant of the night came with less than two minutes to go when they broke into, “Drive home safely.”