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Defensive-minded Iona Prep shuts down Edmund’s in slugfest

When neither team could locate the bottom of the basket even if they had a magnifying glass, Vic Quirolo wasn’t exactly jumping for joy, but the Iona Prep boys basketball coach wasn’t upset either.

The Gaels haven’t gotten this far because of their offensive firepower. Effort at both ends of the floor, stingy defense and clutch shot-making is how Iona has weathered the storm of key graduates and other osses, and it’s why the New Rochelle school was able to hold off Brooklyn A-South champion St. Edmund Prep, 36-29, in last Saturday’s shockingly low-scoring Class A intersectional quarterfinal at Mount St. Michael.

Practice at Iona Prep rarely involved shooting drills, junior forward Felix Abongo (game-high eight points) said with a laugh. It’s dedicated to running laps and getting defensive stops.

“It’s our first drill, it’s our last drill, it’s our practice,” said junior guard Kevin Conroy, who scored six points. “We take shots occasionally. We do drills where you can’t shoot the ball, just play defense.”

In Iona’s second round victory over Bishop Ford, the Gaels allowed just 12 second-half points. St. Edmund outdid Ford, by a point after halftime, but missed its final eight shots as Iona pulled away with the speed of an elephant.

“They’re a well-coached team, they play hard, but today I felt we got good shots,” St. Edmund coach Dan Wiatre said. “If you could tell me so and so is going to get that shot from that spot, I’ll take it. I just think we had a rough day shooting the ball.”

Abongo’s medium-range jumper gave Iona a 30-29 lead with 3:26 remaining and St. Edmund failed to score the rest of the way. While the Eagles were missing shots or committing turnovers, Abongo, Tim McCarthy and Conroy combined to hit three free throws and Luke McCarthy scored on a homerun pass from Abongo, beating the St. Edmund press.

“The fact we couldn’t make a shot and still found a way to win was great,” Quirolo said. “Our guys really worked hard. They deserve it.”

The loss ended a memorable season for the Eagles, division winners for the first time since 2003. Wiatre was particularly proud of his nine seniors, even though their careers ended on an extremely sour note.

“I feel like we overachieved [and] I say that in a positive way,” Wiatre said. “There weren’t a lot of expectations on this group, outside of this room here. I think we kind of maximized oursevles. Maybe [we could’ve] gone another game or two, but I think this group gave everything they had every day.”

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