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Trinity grad Casimir, Iona Gaels win MAAC title, earn return trip to NCAA tourney

Former Trinity Catholic High School basketball star Schadrac Casimir and his Iona Gaels are going to “The Dance” again.

Iona recently defended its Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Men’s Basketball Tournament championship to punch its ticket to “The Dance,” aka March Madness, officially also known as the NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Tournament.

The Gaels are seeded No. 14 in the Northwest Regional bracket and will take on the No. 3 Oregon Ducks in the opening round at 2 p.m., Friday, March 17, in Sacremento, Cal.

Casimir nailed a vital three-point field goal in the second half and scored 10 points to help the third-seeded Gaels pull out a thrilling overtime 87-86 overtime victory over fourth-seeded Siena in the MAAC championship game on March 6 at the Times Union Center in Albany, N.Y.

Casimir, a 5-foot-10, 165-pound sophomore guard from Stamford, has averaged 7.0 points and 19.9 minutes per game this season for seventh-year coach Tim Cluess’ 22-12 Gaels. Casimir has a .424 field goal percentage, a .432 percentage from three-point range, and a sizzling .939 percentage from the free throw line (46-of-49).

Casimir, who wears jersey No. 4, has been up and down in terms of minutes played and points per game this season as he has scored in double digits in nine out of Iona’s 34 games.

He had his season-high scoring games of 27 points twice. The first time he sank 7-of-9 three-pointers and added three rebounds and two assists during a 98-75 home victory Jan. 8 against Canisius. He had his second 27-point game during a big 95-88 victory at Marist on Feb. 17. But he has also scored four points or less in 16 games, including seven games when he was scoreless.

After a slow start in which Casimir averaged 1.5 points in his first six games, he broke out with a strong game Dec. 7 with 16 points and five assists in a 90-73 victory at Fairleigh Dickinson. He scored a team-high 21 points in an 82-67 victory Jan. 17 at Manhattan.

More recently Casimir had 22 points, two steals and two assists in the Gaels’ 88-70 victory over sixth-seeded Rider in their conference tournament opener on March 4.

Iona, from New Rochelle, N.Y., won the MAAC tournament title for the third time in the last five years.

Last year the Gaels defeated Monmouth, 79-76, in the conference tournament championship game. They were seeded 13th in 2016 NCAA Tournament and eliminated in the first round by fourth-seeded Iowa State, 94-81, on March 17.

Casimir’s slow start this season was due in large part to the fact that he missed virtually all of last season due to injury after playing just four games very early in the season.

Two years ago Casimir had a very strong freshman season. He was the unanimous 2015 MAAC Rookie of the Year and selected to the All-MAAC Second Team after he averaged 14.5 points per game and was first in the conference in free throw percentage (.895, 102-of-114) and second in the MAAC in three-point field goals percentage (.423 on 94-of-222 shooting).

Casimir concluded his excellent career at Trinity Catholic by being selected to the 2012-13 All-FCIAC First Team and Class L All-State First Team after he averaged 26.2 points per game, which included seven games when he scored 30 or more and was highlighted by a 50-point outburst against Greenwich.

Iona’s Schadrac Casimir in action for the Gaels this season. — Iona Athletics/ photo

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