SPRINGFIELD, Massachusetts — Manhattan's first trip to the NCAA tournament in a decade came at the expense of rival Iona one year after the Gaels beat the Jaspers for the conference championship.
Yup, this was one fun victory for George Beamon and the Jaspers.
Beamon scored 16 points and Manhattan beat Iona 71-68 on Monday night for the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference tournament title.
"The feeling we had last year, we weren't trying to have that," Beamon said. "I did not everything in my power and the guys did everything in their power not to let up any 3s."
Beamon was one of four players to score in double figures for second-seeded Manhattan (25-7). Rhamel Brown had 15 points, Shane Richards finished with 14 and Emmy Andujar had 12.
The Jaspers have won 11 of 12, including an 80-77 overtime win over Iona at home just 10 days ago.
"This is just an amazing run," coach Steve Masiello said. "It doesn't happen. It's storybook-like. Normally you have like two or three things that are wrong. There's nothing wrong."
A.J. English had 15 points for top-seeded Iona (22-10), which had five players with at least 10 points.
The Gaels had a chance to tie it at the end but David Laury's first 3-point attempt of the season hit the side of the rim at the buzzer.
"They did a good job switching out and unfortunately, I had to take the shot," Laury said. "And I missed it."
Laury and Sean Armand finished with 13 points apiece. Tre Bowman scored 14 and Isaiah Williams had 10.
Manhattan led by as many as 10 points in the second half, but had to hold off a late charge by the Gaels.
English cut the deficit to two points twice down the stretch, with a layup and uncontested dunk with 18 seconds to play.
Iona then fouled Donovan Kates, who made one of two free throws for his only point of the game. That set up the last try by Laury.
Iona, which averages more than 10 3-pointers per game, went 6 for 21 from long range against the Jaspers.
Manhattan led by eight early in the second half, but Iona responded by scoring the next 11 points, highlighted by Isaiah Williams' big dunk after he grabbed the rebound of a Laury miss.
Manhattan came right back. Ashton Pankey's dunk capped a 9-0 run that put the Jaspers back on top 44-38, and they never gave the lead back.
Whenever Iona would get close, Shane Richards would hit a 3-pointer. His third of the half made it 59-54, and sparked an 8-0 run that put the Jaspers up by 10 points with 6 minutes to play.
Iona was looking for its third straight trip to the NCAA tournament. The Gaels, who got an at-large bid two years ago, are not expecting one this season.
"If you look at what we did in the last 20-25 games of the year, then we're an NCAA team," coach Tim Cluess said. "If you look at our overall record, we're probably not. Our job was to win tonight. We didn't."
The New York rivals, whose campuses are less than 10 miles apart, were playing for the 85th time. They split their games in the regular season.
The two losses to Manhattan are the only two the Gaels have had in their last 16 games.