Home / Sports / A.J. English helps propel Iona past Manhattan, 70-67

A.J. English helps propel Iona past Manhattan, 70-67

Iona's A.J. English.Sarah Bentham/AP Iona’s A.J. English.

Iona’s A.J. English was one cool customer when things really got hot Saturday morning at Manhattan’s Draddy Gymnasium.

What’s become the New York area’s best rivalry hit a crescendo when the Jaspers’ Emmy Andujar scooped up a blocked shot and put it back for a game-tying layup with 53 seconds to play. The intensity of the moment was palpable and the decibel level high. Into all that English launched a three-pointer that snapped the bottom of the net with 29 seconds left and the Gaels were on their way to a 70-67 Metro Atlantic victory before a sellout crowd of 2,520.

English’s shot made it 68-65 and Manhattan got it back to one point with a pair of Andujar free throws with 7.5 seconds left. The Jaspers fouled David Laury, who made two shots, and got one last crack at a tie. Zane Waterman wasn’t squared up when he took the three-pointer in front of the Manhattan bench and missed everything before the final horn.

“I loved this game,” English said. “It’s like high major when we played Kansas (last season) or Arkansas (in November).”

English was guarded by RaShawn Stores initially on the go-ahead possession. He used a screen and the Japsers switched Ashton Pankey onto him. English sized it up on the dribble and went right over the 6-9 Pankey to drain it.

“I just saw the mismatch, a guard against a big,” English said. “You spend hours in the gym trying to make the shot.”

Also apparently hours on the playground, as English added. “You just want to stay on the court,” he said.

English scored 22 points and freshman Schadrac Casimir had a coming-out party with 22 points as well. English had six three-pointers and Casimir four as the Gaels (20-6, 13-2) shot 57% from long distance. Andujar scored 17 and Pankey 16 for Manhattan (12-12, 9-6), which did not shoot well and was out-rebounded but stayed in the game with a pressure defense that forced 21 turnovers and turned them into 23 points.

Casimir might actually have hit the biggest shot of the game. Manhattan had trailed by 11 in the first half and 10 early in the second but made its run in the middle of the second. Shane Richards sank a three-pointer for the Jaspers’ first lead, 52-51 with 9:16 left. Draddy reached the brink of pandemonium.

But there was no time to enjoy. Iona was already on the way to striking back as the ball came out of the net. Ibn Muhammad threw a strike to Casimir and he put a three-pointer in the bottom of the basket to re-take the lead.

“They’re just a great offensive team,” Andujar said. “We didn’t come up with the stop.”

“These were huge shots,” Cluess said, referring to Casimir’s and English’s baskets. “We had answers. If we didn’t have an answer when (Casimir) made it, maybe we don’t win that game.”

Cluess is the first Iona coach to take five Gaels teams to 20 wins.

Manhattan got the better of Iona in their last meeting with the stakes high. Last March the Jaspers won the MAAC tournament title game to reach the NCAAs. English said the Gaels had been looking forward to seeing Manhattan again.

Now Jaspers coach Steve Masiello sounded like he’s looking forward to their game in New Rochelle on Feb. 27.

“We have a lot of room for improvement,” he said. “I have a feeling we’ll run into them again.”

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