Manhattan 68, Iona 63

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NEW YORK (AP)—Luis Flores joined an exclusive club Saturday.

The junior guard had 24 points, 10 rebounds and six assists to lead Manhattan to a 68-63 victory over Iona in the championship game of the Holiday Festival and was selected MVP of the tournament for the second straight year.

Only Jimmy Walker of Providence in 1965 and 1966 and Norman Richardson of Hofstra in 1998 and 1999 won the award in consecutive years and the only other players to win it more than once were Tom Gola of La Salle (1952 and 1954), David Russell of St. John’s (1979 and 1982) and Chris Mullin of St. John’s (1981 and 1984).

“I really wasn’t thinking about that but now that I’m part of that group it’s pretty special,” Flores said after leading the Jaspers over their Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference rival in the title game for the second straight year. “The other trophy is at my grandmother’s house and this one will go right next to it.”

The Jaspers (7-3) won the Festival title for the fourth time in 18 appearances. Manhattan also won the Festival, which is held at Madison Square Garden, in 1956 and 1973. Manhattan won last year’s title game 69-58.

“This is very special,” Manhattan coach Bobby Gonzalez said. “New York kids winning in Madison Square Garden is what it’s all about.”

Manhattan, which beat St. John’s 72-65 in the opening round, took the lead for good at 51-50 on a free throw by Jared Johnson with 3:27 left. The Jaspers seemed to have the game under control when Johnson’s layup gave them a 64-56 lead with 46 seconds to play.

Iona (5-5), which beat No. 22 North Carolina 65-56 in the first round, got to 66-63 on three free throws by Steve Burtt Jr. with 10 seconds left.

Flores, an 89 percent free-throw shooter entering the game, was fouled with 8.6 seconds left and he made his last two of the game for the final margin.

Flores was just 4-for-16 from the field, but also had three steals in playing 40 minutes.

“My shooting 4-for-16 was because they had two, three players coming at me every time I drove,” Flores said. “But they call them free throws and you have to make them.”

Burtt led the Gaels with 18 points, while Courtney Fields had 16.

“I could sit here and analyze lots of things,” Iona coach Jeff Ruland said when asked if his team didn’t come down quickly enough after the Gaels’ first win over a ranked team since 1980. “We told them last night that nobody would care today. I knew it would be a real war and it was.”

Johnson finished with 15 points and Jason Benton added 11 for the Jaspers.

North Carolina beat St. John’s 63-59 in the third-place game.

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