Xaverian ground and pounded its way to its first city championship game in a decade.
The Clippers rode forwards Sayon Charles and Nyontay Wisseh to a 50–48 victory over Archdiocesan champion Iona Prep in the Catholic Class AA boys’ basketball title game on Tuesday night at Fordham University. Xaverian now heads to its first final since it won it all in 2005.
The team faces two-time defending champion Christ the King at 3 pm on March15 back at Fordham — a fitting opportunity for a group that took its lumps during a 14–11 campaign last year.
“It’s everything,” said Xaverian coach Jack Alesi. “It’s the way this team did it. We were a .500 team last year, and we are playing in the city championship with the same kids.”
Charles scored a game-high 19 points and grabbed nine rebounds, and Wisseh added 15 points and nine boards. Add in nine points and five rebounds from Najee Larcher and the three combined for 43 of Xaverian’s 50 points, and had two less rebounds than the whole Iona team.
“That’s our game,” Charles said. “We go inside. We call it ground and pound. We just stuck to what we do, and came out successful.”
Senior guard Doyin Isaac may have hit the game’s biggest shot — a three-pointer to tie the score at 46–46 with 1:30 to go in the game — but Wisseh and Charles combined for the biggest play of the contest. Wisseh rebounded an Isaac miss along the left side and found Charles for an open layup with 30 seconds to go in the game. Xaverian went ahead 48–46 and never looked back.
“Whenever my teammate shoots the ball I think about missed shots and go crash for offensive rebounds” Wisseh said. “That’s where we get the ground and pound from — offensive rebounds.”
Iona got as close as 49–48 on two free throws by Ty Jermone with seven seconds left. Bard Featherson made one of two free throws for Xaverian and Jermone managed just a half court heave as time expired.
The Virginia-bound Jermone paced Iona Prep with 18 points. Matt Ryan, who is headed to Notre Dame, had 12 points and 10 boards, and Tom Capuano added 13 points. Xaverian got the Gaels stars in foul trouble early. It held Iona to just 34.8-percent shooting, but saw it make nine threes in the game.
“The key tonight was staying disciplined” Alesi said. “Playing Iona Prep is like a baseball game at Fenway — it’s just never over.”
Ryan, who had been scoreless to that point, connected on consecutive three-pointers to put the Gales up 25–21 at the half. The Clippers went on an 11–3 run in the third behind Charles and Wisseh. Wisseh started the spurt with trey from the right corner and a steal that he turned into a two-handed slam in transition. Charles scored the final four points to put his team up 38–32 going into the fourth.
Xaverian is now looking forward to the city final.
“We are not done yet.” Wisseh said. “We want to win a city championship. It’s been a long time.”