Springfield, Mass. — For the second straight year the title game of the MAAC Tournament featured Manhattan and Iona and was decided by just three points.
Unlike last year though, the Jaspers came out on top.
George Beamon supplied 16 points and eight rebounds, as Manhattan punched its ticket to the NCAA Tournament with a 71-68 victory over Iona in the MAAC Tournament championship game on Monday at MassMutual Center.
Rhamel Brown netted 15 points, while Shane Richards buried four 3-pointers en route to 14 points for the Jaspers (25-7), who won their fourth MAAC tourney title and first since 2004, when they last appeared in the NCAA Tournament.
A.J. English led the Gaels (22-10) with 15 points, while David Laury registered 13 points and 11 boards for Iona, which was seeking its second straight MAAC title after claiming a 60-57 triumph over Manhattan in last year’s title game.
English drained two free throws to get the Gaels within 56-54 with 7 1/2 minutes left, but Richards and Beamon each buried a 3-pointer around an Ashton Pankey layup to push Manhattan’s lead to 64-54 with 6:25 to play.
English and Laury combined on an 8-2 swing to trim the margin to four before Emmy Andujar answered with a layup for a 68-62 Manhattan lead with 1:39 left.
Tre Bowman and English then converted layups around an Andujar layup to bring the Gaels within two with 31 seconds left, but Richards made a pair of clutch free throws to make it a two-possession game with 24 ticks on the clock.
English finished a dunk at the other end and Manhattan’s Donovan Kates went 1- of-2 from the line with 17 seconds left to leave the door open for Iona, but a sloppy final possession forced the Gaels to settle for a desperation 3-pointer from the right wing that barely caught the rim.
The Jaspers led 35-27 early in the second half before English knocked down a triple to spark an 11-0 Iona burst that Laury capped with a layup.
However, Manhattan answered with nine straight points to take a six-point lead with just under 14 minutes remaining.
Manhattan held a 29-22 lead following an 11-0 run late in the first half and carried a 33-27 cushion into the locker room.