St. John the Baptist's Vincent Abbodola reacts after as his...

St. John the Baptist's Vincent Abbodola reacts after as his team fell, 64-51, to Iona Prep. (March 10, 2012) Credit: Kevin P. Coughlin

St. John the Baptist's unlikely run toward a CHSAA championship came to a halt Saturday at the hands of Iona Prep in the fnal.

And immediately after Iona Prep claimed the crown, the talk for St. John the Baptist shifted. This improbable year was done and the phrase on everyone's lips was "next year." Especially after a showing like they had from Tavon Ginyard.

Ginyard, a freshman, had a game-high 32 points, but Iona Prep took an early lead and never relented, defeating the Cougars, 64-51, in the state CHSAA final Saturday at Fordham University.

This is the second time in four years that the Gaels have defeated St. John the Baptist in the final, and the loss caps a playoff run in which the Cougars, who were once 1-11, startled some of the biggest teams in the Catholic league.

"It's still history, we're still relishing in the great run we made," St. John the Baptist coach Andre Edwards said of his team, which was seeded seventh out of seven teams. "No one thought we could win the first game and we're in the state finals. We'll definitely be back here next year."

This loss still stung, Ginyard said: "I thought this year, this team, even with the record and all those people doubting us, I thought we could do this and make a statement."

Things kicked off on a sour note for the Cougars (8-21), who allowed steals on their first two possessions and trailed by as many as 10 in the first quarter. Ginyard and Vincent Yancigay (eight points) nailed back-to-back threes toward the end of the second quarter, but Tim McCarthy's free throws with 1:12 left in the half gave Iona Prep (24-3) a 31-25 lead. Charles Joyner Jr. scored on the next possession -- a nifty spin on which he somehow managed to float the ball into the basket -- but the Cougars got no closer.

St. John the Baptist was afflicted with early foul trouble. Ginyard played with four fouls in the fourth quarter and big man Kyle Williams and Charles Lloyd amassed four fouls in the opening minutes of the third. Williams, especially, was forced to sit out for long periods, allowing 6-5 McCarthy (17 points) to do his work inside.

"They did a good job attacking Kyle," Edwards said. "We had to change our lineup a little bit and, even though we're used to playing small, they out-played us and stuck to their game plan."

Baptist trailed 58-35 in the fourth, but a 15-4 run drew them to within 62-50. Ginyard had 13 points in the stretch, including two threes and a three-point play. No wonder the future outlook is sunny.

"We were 1-11 [in league]," Yancigay, a senior, said. "It didn't feel like we were 1-11. I could feel our chemistry building and building and next year, every starter is coming back. I'm telling you, we're going to win it next year."


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