The St. Thomas Aquinas College men's basketball team rallied from an 11-point deficit in the final minutes to capture an 82-81 overtime victory over the University of New Haven in the ECC/NE-10 Challenge at Aquinas Hall. The Spartans are now 1-2 on the season with UNH dropping its season opener.
James Mitchell hit a pair of three pointers in the final minute to send the game to overtime, part of a 25-point performance. Justin Reyes also tied with a game-high of 25 to go with 10 rebounds, while Shaq McFarlan posted 20 for the Spartans. Mihalo Vlasic led UNH with 16 points, while Danny Upchurch dished out 10 assists as the Chargers came up just short.
Mitchell hit a quick pair of threes as STAC opened a quick 8-2 lead, and the margin extended to as much as 14 points midway through the first half. The Chargers reeled off the final eight points of the half to trim the gap to 40-39, and Derrick Rowland's three at 17:34 put the visitors in the lead for the first time at 43-42.
Joseph Dogenairo came off the bench to add another three, as an overall 18-2 run staked New Haven to a 49-42 advantage. The Spartans rallied to tie the game at 54-54 on a McFarlan bucket with 9:43 to go, but Dogenairo added two more from deep as part of a 12-1 burst, giving the visitors a 66-55 gap with just five minutes remaining, and the lead was 68-60 entering the final two minutes.
Reyes hit a lay-up with 1:40 to go, and Mitchell added a jumper with 57 seconds left to make the score 68-64. Najee Larcher scored with 41 left to expand the lead to six, but Mitchell stuck another trey just seconds later to make it a one-possession game at 70-67. Larcher opened the door by missing the front end of a one-and-one but Reyes missed a potential game-tying three with time winding down. Off a mad scramble for the rebound, McFarlane emerged with the ball and handed off to Mitchell, who drained a three with just seven seconds to go, and the Chargers' last second attempt at a game-winner came up empty.
Reyes opened the overtime with an emphatic jam off a back door cut, and STAC's narrow lead held at 82-79 with a minute left in the extra session. Larcher hit a driving lay-up to cut the gap to one, and the Spartans' next possession came up empty when Reyes missed from deep with the shot clock expiring. With 16 seconds and another chance to win the game, Upchurch dribbled through traffic but could not find a gap in the STAC defense, finally passing to Dogenairo whose desperation shot was off the mark at the buzzer.
The Spartans return to action on Sunday, November 12, wrapping up the weekend challenge against St. Michael's College in a 2:00 pm start. They will return home on Wednesday, November 15, when Jefferson University (formerly Philadelphia University) visits Aquinas Hall for a 7:30 pm start.