CIT Tournament Championship Recap - Santa Clara 76, Iona 69

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The Santa Clara Broncos are the first school to join the exclusive “we won our last game” club. The West Coast Conference member from  defeated the Iona Gaels in the championship of the CollegeInsider.com tournament on Wednesday evening at the Hynes Athletic Center in New Rochelle, New York. The win ended the Broncos’ season on a positive note, putting them in select company: Only three other schools, the winners of the NCAA, NIT, and CBI postseason tournaments, will finish the year with a win. Ben Dowdell scored 14 points, grabbed eight rebounds, and had two assists to lead Santa Clara to its last and most satisfying triumph of the season.

Head coach Kerry Keating’s club finished the year playing its best basketball. The Broncos won eight of their last nine contests, including the final three rounds of the CIT away from home. The ability to compete and win in tournament play will only help Santa Clara moving forward into next season, especially since the Broncos’ top three impact players all return to campus next season. The CIT title is the first ever non-conference postseason tournament championship in Santa Clara history.

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Things started well for Iona on Wednesday before Santa Clara turned the tide. The Gaels jumped on the Broncos early, building an eight-point lead just seven minutes into the contest. Perhaps it was the cross-country travels the Broncos had endured which caused the slow start. Whatever the case, it didn’t last long. Santa Clara responded with a 21-9 run of its own and eventually took a 10-point lead to the halftime locker room. Iona made one final push, knotting the score up at 40-all with 15:34 left in the second half. Santa Clara countered with an 8-0 run, however, and the Gaels never got closer than five for the remainder of the contest.

Iona was led by Michael Glover, who finished with 22 points, 12 rebounds, and three blocks. It was a successful season for head coach Tim Cluess in his first year at the helm. Iona finished 25-12 on the year, with two of those losses coming in title bouts: the championship of the MAAC tournament to St. Peter’s, and Wednesday night’s failure against Santa Clara. This kind of experience will only aid the Gaels in next year’s campaign as they return all but one player from this year’s roster.

The plane ride home to Santa Clara, California, will be a happy one – the Broncos continued the tremendous momentum they built during the final portion of the season. For those who look down at the non-NCAA Tournament postseason excursions as good for nothing, the Santa Clara Broncos beg to differ. The lessons learned and the championship won during the past three weeks will last these kids a lifetime, and for those returning to campus next season, this title – though not highly publicized – will perhaps provide Santa Clara with the template for future NCAA Tournament success.

By Zach Bloxham
DFN Sports Staff Writer




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