By Five Boro Sports
When it comes to early-season tests, consider Iona Prep a midterm on the first day of classes for the Monsignor McClancy basketball team.
The Gaels are the preseason favorite to win the Class A intersectional title and proved why in an 88-57 pasting of the Crusaders in East Elmhurst Tuesday afternoon in both team’s regular-season opener.
Iona Prep used the inside-outside tandem of 6-foot Brian Voelkel, who scored a game-high 28 points, and sharp-shooting guard Andre Pope, who scored 17 of his 24 points in the first half, to demolish McClancy.
Crusaders Coach Don Kent, in his 36th year, knew the Gaels would be tough. After all, they went 21-5 a year ago before losing to Chaz Williams and Bishop Ford in the ‘A’ title game at Iona College.
But what he was upset about after the game was the way his team laid down in the closing moments, after cutting the Gaels’ lead to 71-54 with 4:15 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Iona Prep scored several easy uncontested layups to end the game on a 17-3 run.
“I told the kids after the game, quite candidly, that I was disappointed,” Kent said. “I felt we would have given them a closer game. We didn’t quit, we made runs at them, but I was disappointed that in the last five minutes we faded.”
Kent said his team is a tempo-control squad, which means it is important for the Crusaders to take the lead. But after scoring the opening bucket on Tuesday, McClancy trailed 9-2 early and 24-11 at the end of the first quarter with Pope scoring 13 points in the opening eight minutes.
“We have to, at the start of the game play ahead and keep switching up defenses to keep teams off-balance,” Kent said. “It’s hard to play from behind.”
Led by Anthoni Brown (15 points), Keith Brooks (14) and Randall Sanabria (10), McClancy, which trailed 50-28 at the half, attempted to claw back into the game in the second half. But the Crusaders couldn’t turn a fundamentally sound Iona Prep over and the Gaels, which also received 12 points from Jordan Brunner, scored at will.
“We have to improve defensively, down low and on the perimeter,” Kent said. “One game does not make a season.”
McClancy might not face a stiffer test than Iona Prep, but it doesn’t get any easier in its next two league games as the Crusaders head to Cardinal Spellman and then face defending champion Bishop Ford.
“We’ve got three top dogs right at the start,” Kent said. “Did I mind opening up against Iona Prep? No, because it threw us right in the fire and I could get a read on a team.”