The St. Thomas Aquinas College men's basketball team won its third straight East Coast Conference Regular Season Championship and Aaron Cust hit the 1,000 point plateau in a 103-74 victory over Mercy College. The Spartans have won four straight and 13-of-14 overall, finishing the regular season with a 23-5 record and 15-3 in ECC play, with Mercy dropping to 2-24, 0-17.
Last season, St. Thomas Aquinas earned the regular season crown after sharing it with the University of Bridgeport the previous season, and once again the Spartans can claim sole possession of the top slot, as well as the #1 seed in the upcoming ECC Tournament. STAC now earns a bye into the semi-finals, which will be held at the University of Bridgeport on Saturday, March 4, with the finals at the same location the following day.
While all of the other tourney bids are settled, each of the other seeds is still up for grabs, with Bridgeport, Molloy College, Daemen College, Queens College, and the University of the District of Columbia having to wait for the outcome of Saturday's slate to set the pairings.
Not to be lost in the team's success is the strong finish of Aaron Cust. With just weeks remaining in his senior season, the 1,000 point mark seemed out of reach, but the guard proceeded to average over 18 points per game over an eight game span, leaving him just 21 points shy of the mark entering Wednesday's tilt.
Cust allowed little suspense for both his milestone and the eventual outcome, bolting from the gate with 10 points in less than six minutes of play, staking the Spartans to a 16-10 advantage. His three pointer with 8:06 left capped a 26-10 explosion, putting the visitors in a comfortable 42-23 lead and leaving him just three shy of the mark.
He topped that with just over two minutes to play in the first half and added another field goal in the waning seconds, rounding out an amazing 24-point first-half spectacle, leading his squad to a 60-38 lead at the intermission.
With the drama essentially done for the evening, STAC cruised to the finish line with the lead having swelled to as many as 35 in the second half. Cust shot 12-of-16 from the field en route to a game-high 30 point performance, with Justin Reyes adding 16, Chaz Watler 15, and Adam Koziol coming off the bench for 12 as the Spartans topped the century mark for the second straight game and sixth time this season. Ryan Hickey led four Mavericks in double-figures with 19, aided by Marko Kozul's 17 points and 11 rebounds.
Seedings for the ECC Men's Basketball Tournament will be determined after the conclusion of Saturday's action, with first round play set for Wednesday night at higher seeds, with the winners advancing to Saturday's semis.
For ECC Men's Basketball results, standings, and tournament match-ups, click here to visit ECCSports.org, or check in at stacathletics.com for the latest Spartan hoops info.