The St. Thomas Aquinas College men's basketball team squandered a first half lead before rallying to a 83-79 overtime decision at Bloomfield College. The Spartans now stand at 6-3 on the season, with Bloomfield dropping to 4-2 with the setback. St. Thomas Aquinas entered the night ranked #5 in the East Region in the weekly D2SIDA poll, with the Bears entering in the #4 slot.
STAC's offense struggled down the stretch, scoring just 10 points over a 13-minute stretch spanning the end of regulation and overtime as Bloomfield overcame an 18-point first-half deficit. Justin Reyes scored the decisive hoop with 35 seconds to go in OT to give his team the lead for good, part of his 18 point, 15 rebound performance.
Bloomfield scored the game's first five points, but over the next six minutes the Spartans exploded on a 17-2 run to take charge at 17-7. Marcus Fleming's lay-up drew the hosts to within 19-16, but James Mitchell answered with a pair of three-pointers in a span of nine seconds as part of a 12-1 STAC outburst to open the lead to 31-17. Reyes hit a pair from the line to open the gap to 38-20, but the Bears started to chip away, with Tariq McKeneth's buzzer-beater trimming the deficit to 42-29 at the break.
As the minutes ticked down and the Spartans' offense struggled, Bloomfield continued to draw closer until Nick Davidson's jumper gave the hosts a 69-68 edge with a minute left in regulation. Kameron Murrell put STAC back on top with a lay-up, and McKenith proceeded to make one of two foul shots to force the game to extra time.
In the overtime the lead continued to change hands, with Nick Davidson hitting from deep to give the Bears a 77-76 lead with under two minutes left in the overtime session. Each team came up empty on its next three possessions until James Mitchell's missed three was rebounded by Chris Atkinson, who found Reyes for the go-ahead hoop. Atkinson proceeded to hit four straight from the line as the Spartans closed out the triumph.
Along with Reyes, double-figure scorers for St. Thomas Aquinas included Murrell (16 points), Atkinson (15), and Jules de Courteay (10). Marcus Fleming led all scorers with 19 for Bloomfield, with Rakwan Kelly adding 18 and Davidson adding 16. STAC had a 51-44 advantage in rebounding but the big advantage came from the charity stripe, where the visitors shot 74% (20-for-27), with the Bears struggling at 50% (9-for-18).
The Spartans face another big East Regional test when LeMoyne College visits on Tuesday, December 5, for a 7:00 pm tip. STAC will then go on the road for three straight to start their East Coast Conference slate, beginning with a trip to Daemen College on Friday, December 8.