Archbishop Stepinac put its offense into another gear in the fourth quarter, pulling away from Iona Prep and securing a 75-58 win in the CHSAA NY Archdiocesan semifinal in the Bronx on Tuesday night.
After splitting the two CHSAA regular season tilts, the Westchester archrivals were pitted against each other again after Iona Prep lost the peculiar top seed tiebreaker when St. John's and DePaul put up an odd point total last week.
After a sluggish start, the tempo picked up when Stepinac Head Coach Pat Massaroni was hit with a technical. The tech freebies and a basket by Souleymane Koureissi gave Iona Prep a 17-12 lead early in the second quarter before Stepinac took the lead back at 18-17 on a 3-point play by Ed Sanchez.
Sanchez had the hot hand for the Crusaders in the first half, connecting on two 3-pointers during a 16-2 Stepinac run that put the Crusaders ahead 28-19.
Iona got back into the game with transition baskets by Bryce Wills, with the Gaels narrowong the margin to 34-32 at the half.
Iona Prep regained the lead at 39-37 on a 3-pointer by Romar Reid, but the Crusaders took it right back at 41-39 on a spinning 3-point play by RJ Davis.
Stepinac started to pull away again late in the third, stretching its lead to 50-44 after a 3-pointer by Alan Griffin and a dunk by Joel Soriano off a Griffin assist.
The Crusaders opened-up a double-digit lead at 60-50 on a baseline jumper by Griffin, and another Sanchez 3-pointer after an Iona Prep timeout extended the Stepinac advantage to 63-50.
While Iona Prep struggled to score in the half court set througout the game, their transition offense also hit a drought down the stretch, allowing Stepinac to break it open.
The Crusaders will face top seed Cardinal Hayes in the CHSAA NY Archdiocesan Final on Saturday at 1:00 pm at Mount Saint Michael in the Bronx.