CIT Tournament: Santa Clara Broncos Win Championship 76-69 over Iona Gaels

Ken KraetzerCorrespondent IIMarch 30, 2011

The Broncos of Santa Clara defeated Iona 76-69 to win the Tournament Championship in front of a full house at the Gael's Hynes Center in New Rochelle, New York.

Sophomore forward Kevin Foster, from Katy, Texas led the Broncos with 16 points and four assists.  Senior Forward Ben Dowdell, from North Nowra, Australia; scored 14 points and grabbed eight rebounds.  Iona Junior forward Mike Glover, from the Bronx, NY led all scorers with 22 points and 12 points.  Santa Clara out rebounded Iona 50-33. 

Santa Clara previously had defeated Northern Arizona, Air Force, San Francisco and SMU to advance to play Iona.  The Broncos finish the season at 23-14.  Iona won three CIT games over Valparaiso, Buffalo, and Eastern Tennessee. The Gaels finish at 25-12

The game was decided with less than a minute to play with Iona playing furious defense, Ben Dowdell completed a three point play to put Santa Clara ahead 76-67. 

Late in the second half, Ben Dowdell gave Santa Clara a 71-60 lead with a two point jumper.  Iona freshman Sean Armand, from Broklyn, NY kept the Gaels in the game with a three.  Glover followed with a dunk to get Gaels back with six at 71-65 with 2:15 left.  Bronco senior Michel Santos hit two free throws to put the Broncos out to a 73-65 lead with 1:45 left.

Iona came back with four from a lay-up by Trinity Fields an two free throws by Mike Glover to make it 65-57.  Then Evan Roquemore hit a three to keep the Bronco lead at nine 68-57.  Glover hit another free throw to make score 68-58 with 3:53 left.

As quickly as Iona came back, Santa Clara answered again with an 8-1 run capped by a three point basket by Kevin Foster to make score 63-51 with 7:29 to play.

Iona's Sean Armand was the Gael's only consistent outside shooter on the night.  The freshman made a three point shot and a layup conversion from point guard Scott Machado to get the Gaels back with in five at 55-50 with 9:34 left.

Iona came out fast in the second half with a 10-2 run. Senior guard Rashon Dwight led with a layup, then a Mike Glover dunk, followed by a Scott Machado lay-up. It was tied 40-40 on another Scott Machado lay-up.  Santa Clara answered with three point shots by junior forward Marc Trasolini, and sophomore forward Raymond Cowels.  A put back shot by Trasolini put the Broncos back up by eight, 48-40 with 12:47 left to play.

With Iona trailing 29-19, Sean Armond hit a three, Mike Glover made a jumper and Sean Armond hit another three to get the Gaels back within five.  Santa Clara extend their lead back to ten with a jumper and a long three point shot at the buzzer by Kevin Foster, to take a ten point 38-28 lead over Iona to the locker room at the half.

Midway through the first, trailing 16-8 Santa Clara went on a 22-3 run led off by a three point shot from Raymond Cowels, and two straight lay-up baskets by Michael Santos.  Junior guard Trinity Fields hit a three for Iona, but the Broncos answered with a dunk by Dowdell, a three point shot by Kevin Foster, two free throws made by Raymond Cowles, a jumper by Foster, a layup and foul shot by Trasolini, then a lay-up and foul shot by by Ben Dowdell put Santa Clara in the lead by eleven 30-19 with 5:05 ledt in the half. 

Earlier in the first half, after a Mike Santos layup for the Broncos, Iona scored six straight to take a 16-8 lead on a Scott Machado layup, Alejo Rodriquez dunk and two Mike Glover dunks, separated by a short jumper made by the Broncos Ben Dowdell and two layups goals by senior guard Michael Santos. 

Iona went off to a fast start with an 8-0 run with power forward Mike Glover hitting one of two free throws.  Iona Freshman Sean Armand, starting in place of the injured Kyle Smyth, hit a three.  Then, Mike Glover took a pass from point guard Scott Machado and dunked.  After two missed Santa Clara free throws, Glover tipped home a rebound to give Iona an 8-2 lead.

Santa Clara went out to an early 2-0 lead on a jump shot by senior forward Troy Payne. 

The win gives Santa Clara a trophy they can take home to the San Francisco Bay area, and a banner they will undoubtedly place in their gym.  Their coach Kerry Keating, a 1993 Seton Hall graduate talked about the value of the trip for the players, to visit historic places like the place in Dallas where President Kennedy was assassinated, and Ground Zero in New York where he said he had lost friends.  "The players had a chance to learn about life".

For Iona, a disappointing loss for what had been a very positive season.  The Gaels won 12 of their last 14 games, the only defeats coming in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference and CIT Championship games.  Iona's Scott Machado described after the game how frustrating it was for him and his teammates to loss two championship games.  I'll have to remind him about how many big games the Dallas Cowboys lost in th last '60s and early '70s before they reached the summit and went on a streak of championships that earned the "America's Team" label. 

First year Iona Coach Tim Cluess talked after the game about how far his group of players, especially the seniors Rashon Dwight and Alejo Rodriquez, had come during their careers.  He said, "They played for three coaches, helped grow the program back to a high level, and were able to win five post-season games in two tournaments when they had not won any in their prior Iona years".    

Although a disappointing loss for Iona, it was a great night for college basketball in New Rochelle, NY, a chance to play for a national title and trophy, while creating lessons learned and lifetime memories.

Ken Kraetzer covers Iona basketball and West Point football for WVOX 1460, New Rochelle, NY.