CHRIS CIRILLO & DANIEL YNFANTE
SENIOR WRITER & ASST. SPORTS EDITOR
Why They Won
Turnovers have been the Jaspers’ forte all season. This game was no different.
Manhattan forced 19 turnovers, 13 of which came in the first half. Most notably, RaShawn Stores stole an inbounds pass right under the Manhattan basket and had an easy layup for two just a few feet away. A few plays later, Stores did it again. This time he found Richards who laid it up and got fouled in the act to give the Jaspers a 10-point lead right before the end of the half.
The Jaspers went on a 10-2 run over the final 2:27 in the first, sparked by the two steals by Stores.
Saint Peter’s came out in the second half and did a better job protecting the ball, but shot 1-11 through the first 10 minutes against a stifling Manhattan defense.
Turnovers, however, are just half the story on the defensive end for the Jaspers. They locked down Desi Washington and limited Marvin Dominique. Washington had just four points and did not score until the 13:22 mark in the second half. Dominique added just 13 points.
Player of the Game
The win against Saint Peter’s was as much of a team performance as Manhattan has had all season so it is difficult to choose one player who stood out above the rest.
But for the sake of this story, Ashton Pankey was the player of the game.
His box score was not a typical Pankey stat sheet but he still made his presence known scoring 10 points, to go along with five rebounds and three blocks.
Not shown on the box score were the double teams he often drew, which led to wide open shots for other players.
Pankey will be a key player for the Jaspers in the championship game against Iona and if he can draw double teams that leave guys like Shane Richards and Stores wide open from 3-point range, the Jaspers will certainly stand a chance.
But even if the double teams do not come, Pankey has proven against Iona this season that he can score against anyone the Gaels throw at him. In two meetings against the Gaels this season, Pankey averaged 18 points per game, being guarded primarily by David Laury.
That will be a matchup to watch tomorrow night and if it goes in favor of Pankey, it could be the difference in the game.
Come tournament time, coaches truly find out which players they can count on for big games.
Freshmen, given their inexperience, are rarely among those counted on.
But Masiello might just have to defy logic and keep riding Zane Waterman, as the freshman forward came up huge for the Jaspers in the first half.
His box score might not tell the whole story, but Waterman was essential to Manhattan’s 10-point lead at the half.
Waterman hit two 3-pointers at two key stretches in the game.
His first came wth the Jaspers leading 10-6 and his three helped ignite a 7-2 run that gave the Jaspers a 13-6 lead. Less than a minute later, it was on the defensive end where Waterman made his impact, drawing a charge on Quadir Welton.
Then came his second 3-pointer, which stopped an 8-0 run by St. Peter’s that had brought it to within one point—17-16.
He provided the Jaspers with some much-needed energy in a first half where their best player, Emmy Andujar, went scoreless.
Waterman did not play much in the second half, but in the little time he got, came up big again. He battled for loose balls, made it tough for opponents to get good rebounding position and of course, drew a charge at the 3:22 mark, right after Stores had hit a 3-pointer to stretch Manhattan’s lead to 11 points.
Waterman capped off his unsung performance with a 3-point-dagger that gave Manhattan a 13-point lead with 2:55 remaining.
For the third year in a row, Manhattan will meet Iona in the MAAC Championship. They split the previous two championship meetings, but Iona owns a 2-0 record against the Jaspers this season. The Gaels won 70-67 on the road and 79-75 at home.
The Gaels are coming off one of their best games of the season. Iona defeated Monmouth 95-77 in the semifinals led by a MAAC tournament record 19 3-pointers. Isaiah Williams, who did not play in the first meeting against Manhattan, also set a MAAC single-game record with nine 3-pointers. He finished with 27 points as Iona shot over 50 percent from the field and from behind the 3-point line.
The two teams have been known for their contrasting styles in previous championship matchups, and this one will be no different. A defensive-minded Manhattan team has held both of its opponents in the tournament under 70 points while an offensive-minded Iona has averaged nearly 80 points per game.
Post Game Quotes
“We didn’t shoot a great percentage,” head coach Steve Masiello said. “But I thought we did the things that we needed to do to win the game. I thought we had the ability to kind of make it ugly and win, which is what you have to be able to do in any type of tournament setting because there are going to be nights you don’t shoot the ball great. But can you get stops? Can you rebound the basketball? Can you execute? And I thought we did that.”
“I’m happy that the program is back in the third championship game in a row,” Masiello said. “I think it says a lot about where our program is, which is a direct correlation to our seniors. I am not happy about our opponent.”
“They [the players] might not pass the sexy test to a lot of people, but they’re a coach’s dream,” Masiello said. “There’s not a coach in this conference or in this country that wouldn’t love to have a RaShawn Stores, a Donovan Kates, an Emmy. A lot of people want to tell me what they can’t do. Look what they can do though. They win. They know how to win. That’s what they’re about.”
“I said it when we lost to them [Iona] last time, it’s not a team I want to play tomorrow,” Masiello said. “It’s not a team I want to see.”
“There’s magic in the air when these two teams take the floor,” Masiello said. “There’s a little different vibe. There’s a little different energy. There’s a little different look in everyone’s eyes, and I think all the players and coaches will admit that…. I think you see a lot of kids now, watching this game, saying ‘wow, I’d love to play for one of those teams.’”
“It’s always tough to beat a team three times,” said RaShawn Stores. “But we just got to come out hard. It’s going to be a fun game. It’s going to be a battle, and we understand that.”
“I think the biggest thing is that we have the young guys going now,” said Ashton Pankey. “We have guys like Zane Waterman, Calvin Crawford and Carlton Allen. Those guys are stepping up. They might not play a lot of minutes but those three or five minutes that they play are big.”
“It’s a great feeling,” Emmy Andujar said. “But like coach said, I wish we were playing somebody else. But it’s exciting, especially it being my last year and getting that chance to go to the NCAA.”