A former area high school basketball star went from worst to first, helping to lead the University of Virginia to its first NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Championship.
Iona Prep graduate Ty Jerome had one shining moment, then a second shining moment, and several more en route to leading the top-seeded Cavaliers to the title, taking down the third-seeded Texas Tech Red Raiders 85-77 in an overtime thriller Monday night at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.
A year ago, Jerome and his teammates became the first top seed to lose to a 16-seed in the NCAA Tournament. On Monday, they cut down the nets.
“Forget last year,” Jerome told The New York Times. “This is everything you dream of since you’re a little kid.”
Jerome was a key contributor in the final, finishing with 16 points, eight assists, and six rebounds. Similar to the Cavaliers’ unlikely Final Four win over Auburn to make it to the final, Jerome was key in assisting on one of the final plays in regulation to help his team tie the game with seconds left on the clock.
Sophomore De’Andre Hunter, who hit the key 3-point shot to tie the game with 14 seconds to go in the second half, finished with a game-high 27 points, while junior Kyle Guy was named the Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four, contributing 24 points of his own.
With Virginia holding a slim lead in overtime, Jerome hit two free throws with 41 seconds left in the game, giving the Cavaliers a lead they never relinquished.
"I think it was a terrific game, to see how these guys played,” Virginia head coach Tony Bennet stated. "The one thing I said to them before in the locker room, I said, you guys faced pressure that no team in the history of the game has faced, well, really all year, but being down 14 against Gardner-Webb, and you did not panic in that moment, and you fought, and you found a way out. That, I think, prepared you for this moment to be able to handle the pressure or the intensity of a National Championship game. And these guys stepped up.”
According to ESPN’s “Best Available List,” Jerome is ranked as the 30th best player in the country and eighth-best point guard, making him a likely candidate to be a late first-round or early second-round pick. His performance in the National Championship may have bolstered his already impressive resume even further.
New Rochelle Mayor Noam Bramson mused that “Iona College may not have made it to the NCAA Basketball Championship this year, but New Rochelle was still well represented. Our own Ty Jerome, an Iona Prep grad, led Virginia’s Cavaliers to a big win last night.”
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