Iona Tops Fairfield for Third Straight MAAC Title
The Metro-Atlantic Athletic Conference men’s basketball tournament came to a close Monday night. Iona College faced off against the Fairfield Stags in the championship game, which premiered at 8PM at the Times Union Center in Albany. The two teams were the #4 and #6 seeds, respectively. This was the first time in the MAAC in over 10 years that none of the top three seeds were able to make it past the semifinal games.
Iona showed out offensively for the entire game. They jolted out to a 12-5 lead, and never stopped from there. Senior guard Zach Lewis led the charge with 20 points, seven rebounds, and five assists. He was helped by an additional 29 points from forward Roland Griffin.
Lewis went on to win the MAAC Championship Most Valuable Player, finishing with averages of 19.3 points, 5.3 rebounds, 3.3 assists, and 2.3 steals per game. Griffin and junior Schadrac Casimir were named to the MAAC All-Championship Team.
Fairfield battled intensely though, and they were even able to hold a lead for several minutes of the contest. The Stags were led by senior guard Tyler Nelson, who shed tears in a long embrace with coach Sydney Johnson as the game came to a close.
Nelson, who was also named to the All-Championship Team, scored 25 points. He did this very efficiently, making eight of 14 shots including six made from beyond the arc. Nelson scored 20+ points 19 times throughout the season, and finished the year averaging 22.2 PPG. Teammate Jerome Segura, was also given the same honors as Nelson.
By the end of the first half, the score was 43-37 in favor of the Gaels. The second half was no different, though. Iona shot a fantastic 47.5% from the field, and Fairfield couldn’t match it by making just 38% of their shots. Iona led in almost every single category. The Gaels pulled down 40 rebounds to the Stags’ 37, and gave up less turnovers than them as well.
They slowly built their lead up, and were up 50-38 within the first three minutes of the second half. After that, the Stags were doomed offensively and struggled to to make a basket. Griffin was able to help the Gaels by competing on both sides of the ball, even blocking 4 shots in addition to his 8 rebounds. Lewis managed to get 4 of the team’s 7 steals, an excellent defensive performance.
Iona never looked back and was able to end the game by a score of 81-73. Quite astonishingly, it is their third straight MAAC championship victory. The season has come to a close for Fairfield University, as they finish with a 17-16 record overall (9-9 in conference play).
The Gaels (20-13, 11-7 in MAAC) has secured their spot in March Madness, and will look to make a good run in the NCAA Tournament. Their next opponent is unknown, but its a fact that they will come out hard. The Gaels are rolling, and aren’t looking to slow down.