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October 28, 1997

NEW YORK (AP) _ Iona, which won 22 games in gaining a spot in last season’s NIT, has been picked to win the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference championship.

The Gaels gained 90 points in the voting by the league’s 10 coaches announced at the Downtown Athletic Club Tuesday. Loyola, Md., was a close second with 88 points, followed by Niagara (75), Rider (66) and Fairfield (60), the defending champion.

The lower half has Canisius (47), St. Peter’s (44), Manhattan (33), Siena (27) and Marist (20). Rider and Marist are newcomers to the league, having switched from the Northeast Conference.

Loyola landed two players on the preseason all-conference team: 6-foot-2 senior Mike Powell and 5-10 sophomore Jason Rowe. Kevin Jobity, 6-10 junior from Niagara; 6-2 senior Kevin Thompson of Canisius, and 6-2 sophomore Ricky Bellinger of St. Peter’s complete the squad.

Fairfield, with 95 points, was picked to capture the women’s title, followed by Siena (83), defending champion St. Peter’s and Manhattan (each with 73) and Niagara (64). Loyola (63), Iona (30), Rider (28), Canisius (27) and Marist (24) round out the voting.

The preseason team has two seniors, Shannon Graham of Niagara and Jessica Grossarth of Fairfield, and three juniors, Melanie Halker of Siena, Patty Marchese of St. Peter’s and Mary Anne Kirsch of Loyola.

The conference, which held last year’s tournament at Marine Midland Arena in Buffalo, N.Y., has changed to the Pepsi Arena in Albany, N.Y., Feb. 26-March 2. The men’s and women’s titlists earn automatic bids to the NCAA tournaments.

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