ALBANY, NY – March. Madness. Tournament MVP Jordan Washington sunk the clinching free throws with 1.6 seconds remaining to propel No. 3 seed Iona to its second straight MAAC Championship, 87-86 in an overtime thriller over fourth seeded Siena Basketball in front of 7,608 at the Times Union Center.
The matchup featuring the two most successful teams in MAAC history lived up to its billing. In an epic battle which featured 16 ties and five lead changes, Iona (22-12) secured the only stop in overtime as sophomore guard Nico Clareth’s straight on look at a potential championship winning three in the closing seconds was off the mark.
Washington went a perfect 4-for-4 from the free throw line in the final minute, and scored eight of his team-high 21 points in the extra session to lead the Gaels to their league record 10th MAAC Championship.
Senior guard Marquis Wright led all scorers with 29 points for Siena (17-17), which was making its ninth MAAC Championship Game appearance and first in seven years.
In a first half which featured a pair of large runs, the Saints followed a 17-1 Iona spurt with 11 straight points and took a 37-35 lead at the break.
The Gaels started the second half strong, building as much as a nine-point lead with 11:56 to go. But Siena responded with its second 11-0 run of the contest, and reclaimed a 59-57 advantage following a Wright three with 8:28 to play.
From there on out it would be nip and tuck as the postseason classic unfolded. Iona’s Deyshonee Much and the Saints’ red-shirt senior forward Brett Bisping traded clutch free throws in the final minute to send the MAAC Championship Game to overtime for just the fifth time, and first since Siena won its most recent title here over Fairfield in 2010.
The Saints’ veteran front line of Bisping (16 points, 14 rebounds) and senior forward Javion Ogunyemi (16 points, 10 rebounds) each turned in double-doubles, with Ogunyemi also tying his own MAAC Tournament program record with five blocks. The duo joined Clareth and Wright in being named to the MAAC All-Tournament Team, as the runners-up accounted for four of the six selections.
Senior Lavon Long (nine points, 11 rebounds) fell just shy of his own double-double for Siena, which dominated the Gaels on the glass once again. The Saints hauled in a MAAC Tournament program record 52 rebounds in finishing +18 on the glass, which included 28 offensive rebounds fueling 27 second chance points.
All five Iona starters scored in double figures, as Much added 18 points for the nemesis Gaels which have taken all nine MAAC Tournament meetings from Siena. Rickey McGill (14), E.J. Crawford (12) and Schadrac Casimir (10) rounded out the double figure scorers for Iona which has captured 14 of the last 17 meetings overall between the programs, including eight straight in Albany.
Siena will graduate one of the most decorated classes individually in program history, which featured four 1,000-point scorers who combined to accumulate 5,780 career points.