Iona transfer duo got exactly what they came for

Iona transfer duo got exactly what they came for

ALBANY — The noise had died down. The celebration paused.

Roland Griffin and Zach Lewis walked back to Iona’s locker room through the bowels of the Times Union Center, Griffin trying to find a less awkward way to hold the massive MAAC Tournament trophy.

A moment that only existed in their minds for so long would be with them forever.

“This … is … crazy,” Lewis said slowly to his friend.

While Iona claimed its third straight conference championship with an 83-71 win over Fairfield, Griffin and Lewis earned their first trip to the NCAA Tournament because of career-defining performances.

Griffin (29 points, eight rebounds, four blocks) spent last season at Midland College in Texas, and was at Illinois State, the season prior, while Lewis (20 points, seven rebounds, five assists, four steals) started at Canisius, then went to UMass.

When each considered transferring, each was drawn by Iona’s incredible success under Tim Cluess.

“The tradition, that was almost the main reason why I came here,” Griffin said. “Every year they got an opportunity to win the championship, and go to the [NCAA] Tournament, so who wouldn’t want to be a part of it?”

After losing his top-three scorers from last season’s team, Cluess again banked on the latest set of experienced transfers to slide into his system, and take the torch.

Though Griffin entered the title game as the team’s fifth-leading scorer, and Lewis, sixth, the duo kept Iona in front in the first half, while the Gaels’ top four scorers combined for 10 points. Griffin and Lewis combined for 24 of the team’s first 28 points, with Griffin giving Iona a 44-22 edge in points in the paint.

Lewis was named the fourth different MVP of Cluess’ four title teams, while Griffin was carried on his teammates’ shoulders.

It … was … crazy.

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