Momo Jones, who accepted MAAC Player of the Year award Thursday, scored 21 of his 33 points in second half as Iona defeated Canisius 89-85. (Photo courtesy of the author's personal collection)
It was another Jordan-esque performance from Iona's version of the greatest to ever play the game.
Battling a 102-degree fever throughout the week to the point where it was unknown whether or not he would start for Iona tonight, Momo Jones took matters into his own hands once again, finishing with 33 points to lift the Gaels past Canisius and into the MAAC Tournament semifinals by the final of 89-85.
"I don't need easy," Jones said after the game, the sixth this season in which he has scored 30 or more points. "I just need possible."
For Jones, anything is possible, as he has proved time and time again this season on his way to earning MAAC Player of the Year honors, the second consecutive Gael to win the award. As Canisius repeatedly pulled what had at one point been a 12-point Iona lead to as little as one down the stretch, Jones went into overdrive, scoring 16 of his 33 points in the final 7:49 of the second half, including eight in the last 3:09.
Sean Armand chipped in with 24 points for the Gaels, who advance to take on Niagara in the semifinal round tomorrow afternoon at 2pm, and for head coach Tim Cluess; who celebrated his 54th birthday by coaching his team to a win, he could not be more satisfied with the result.
"It was huge to have a game where both of them played well together," Cluess said of Jones and Armand, who will face a dynamic backcourt duo similar to themselves tomorrow, when they take on Juan'ya Green and Antoine Mason of Niagara. "I'm just really proud of my guys to win a game like that. Both teams played phenomenal. It was a fun game to watch."
With the win, the Gaels clinch a spot in their third consecutive semifinal, giving Cluess an appearance in the conference's final four in each of his seasons at the helm in New Rochelle. "It's a statement to our players' work ethic and how hard they work at what they do," stated Cluess, who has only reached the championship game yet, falling short to eventual champion Saint Peter's in 2011 before being upended last season by Fairfield, who was narrowly defeated by Loyola the following night.
Maybe this year, the third time will be the charm.