Springfield, MA (SportsNetwork.com) - For the second straight year, the Iona Gaels and the Manhattan Jaspers will decide the champion in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Tournament when they meet in the final at MassMutual Center on Monday night.
Iona is seeking its second straight MAAC title, after winning the league tournament with a 60-57 triumph over Manhattan in the championship game a year ago. This season, after topping Rider in the quarterfinals, the Gaels snuck by fourth-seeded Manhattan, 75-72, in Saturday's semifinals.
Although Iona had the best conference record in the MAAC this season, the Jaspers earned the best overall mark, which they improved with an 87-68 rout of Quinnipiac in the semifinals. They are now 24-7 overall, with Sunday's win being their fourth straight.
These teams split a pair of meetings during the regular season, with each winning on their home floor. The Jaspers claimed an 80-77 overtime victory on Feb. 28 after Iona earned an 85-73 win on Jan. 31. The Gaels lead the all-time series by a 46-38 margin.
Manhattan's play in the second half powered it past Quinnipiac. The Jaspers and Bobcats were tied 40-40 at halftime, but Manhattan sank 57.7 percent from the floor, including 6-of-9 from beyond the arc, and limited Quinnipiac to 33.3 percent shooting over the final 20 minutes.
George Beamon was at the forefront of Manhattan's victory over Quinnipiac in the semifinals, finishing with a game-high 25 points on 8-of-18 shooting. He is now averaging 19.4 ppg for the season, while shooting 40.8 percent from the floor and 36.6 percent from 3-point range. Michael Alvarado (12.3 ppg) is the only other player scoring in double figures, but Emmy Andujar (8.4 ppg) served as the second option on Sunday, netting 21 points off the bench. Rhamel Brown (9.9 ppg, 6.1 rpg) must also be taken into account, as he leads the MAAC in blocks (116) after totaling four rejections to go with 16 points against Quinnipiac.
Sean Armand led four players in double figures with 21 points, as Iona got past Manhattan in the semifinal round. The game was tied at 70-70 with 55 seconds to play when David Laury got a layup to fall for the Gaels, who then hit 3-of-4 at the free-throw line to close out the contest.
Iona plays at an incredible pace at the offensive end, netting an impressive 84 ppg, while shooting 48.8 percent from the floor. The Gaels also move the ball extremely well, assisting on 17.6 field goals per game. Armand (17.9 ppg, 4 apg) and A.J. English (17.2 ppg, 4.3 apg) keep the team humming along, providing plenty of scoring punch while setting up teammates as two of the five best players in the MAAC in assists. Tre Bowman (13.9 ppg), Laury (13.8 ppg, 8 rpg) and Isaiah Williams (11.2 ppg) are also important pieces to the puzzle.