Will Williams emerged from the locker room, sat on the first row of the bleachers at Holy Cross HS and came to grips with the reality that his high-school basketball career had just ended.
“I gave it my all, I left it all on the floor and that’s all I can ask from my teammates,” the senior point guard said. “That’s the best thing for me, being a senior and it being my last game.”
The effort for Mount St. Michael was there in a 70-60 loss to Iona Prep in the CHSAA Class A intersectional semifinals Tuesday night. If only the execution would have come with it, the Mountaineers might be talking about a berth in the championship game and going to practice on Wednesday.
The chances, and there were many in the second half, were there for Mount. Countless times the Mountaineers would get a defensive stop or hit a big shot to come within a possession of cutting its deficit to less than 10 points. And each time, the Mount squandered its opportunity.
“Today we just came up a little short and didn’t have enough offense to match all their different weapons,” Williams said. “Against them, you have to make shots and make sure you get stops. We fell a little short making plays.”
A tight game turned after halftime when the Gaels scored eight points in the first 41 seconds of the third quarter to take a 40-21 lead. From there, Mount (20-7) had to climb a difficult hill against the most balanced team in the league.
“For whatever reason, first minute of the third quarter we were sleeping,” Mount coach Tom Fraher said. “You can’t go down 19 to Iona Prep. They’re too good; they handle it too well. They have four guards out there that can shoot it, go by you and pass. It’s a tough, uphill climb.”
Mount made its push early in the fourth quarter, cutting its deficit to 55-46 on a pair of free throws by Williams, who scored a team-high 23 points. But Andre Pope followed with a 3-pointer and, after Nigel Mitchell missed his attempt from beyond the arc, Aaron Savage connected on a 12-foot jumper and Iona Prep (25-1) extended its lead back to 14.
The closest Mount would get was seven, 67-60, following a Williams 3-pointer with 25.7 seconds left.
“They were able to make some big shots and they all have good dribble penetration,” junior forward Gary Acquah said. “Overall I think we did a pretty good job on the boards and fighting with them.”
Sandro Carissimo scored a game-high 25 points and Brian Voelkel, Jeffrey Mack and Savage scored 10 points apiece for Iona Prep, which will meet Bishop Ford in the Class A final for the second straight year. Acquah and Pete Aguilar scored 13 points apiece for Mount.
“I’m proud of my guys,” Fraher said. “We hung in there, Williams willed us back in, Aguilar made a three. We fought, we didn’t give in, but we didn’t have enough. We didn’t have enough offense.”