The St. Thomas Aquinas College men's basketball team captured a decisive 91-72 victory over St. Anselm College in the East Region Quarter-Finals of the NCAA Division II Tournament. The Spartans, the region's #5 seed, have now won seven straight and 16-of-17 overall to improve to 26-5, while the Northeast-10 champs, seeded #4, end their campaign at 20-9.
East Coast Conference Player of the Year Justin Reyes turned in a stellar performance with a game-high 32 points and 15 rebounds, leading five Spartans in double-figures. Cody Ball was the leading scorer for St. Anselm with 17. STAC's victory avenges last season's 77-73 semi-final loss to the Hawks last season.
STAC advances to Sunday's semi-finals against #8 seeded Merrimack College, which pulled a stunning 72-68 overtime victory over #1 host LeMoyne College. The other semi will see #3 College of Saint Rose face #7 Southern Connecticut State University at 5:00 pm. The East Regional Final will be held on Tuesday night at 7:00 pm, also at Henniger Center on the LeMoyne campus.
Perimeter shooting staked the Spartans to an early lead, with James Mitchell, Chaz Watler and Adam Koziol each hitting threes as part of an 18-6 run, allowing their squad to open a 25-11 lead after nine minutes of action. STAC's lead grew to as many as 19 at 44-25, but late threes from Tim Guers and Ball brought St. A's to within 44-31 at the intermission.
Mitchell opened the second half with another three, and while the Hawks drew to within 13 on two occasions, an 11-2 STAC run opened a 60-38 chasm, thwarting any attempt at a comeback as St. Anselm was never closer than 18 points from there.
Koziol scored all 15 of his points from beyond the arc, with Aaron Cust (12), Mitchell (11), and Chaz Watler (10) adding depth to the STAC attack. Braley added 16 points and 11 caroms for St. A's, with Guers chipping in 14 and Harrison Taggart adding 10. The Spartans enjoyed a 39-35 rebounding edge and turned the ball over just nine times on the night, forcing 15 from the Hawks.