The St. Thomas Aquinas College men's basketball team rallied to an 81-69 East Coast Conference victory over Roberts Wesleyan College at Aquinas Hall. The Spartans hit the 20-win mark for the fourth straight season, improving to 20-5 overall and 11-2 in ECC play, with RWC slipping to 14-8, 7-6. STAC has also clinched a berth to the East Coast Conference Men's Basketball Tournament.
Roberts Wesleyan quickly opened a 7-0 lead on the strength of an Isaiah Lewis three-pointer, but Shaq McFarlan answered with five straight points in a 14-2 Spartans answer. Several lead changes ensued, but Zachary Rzewnicki hit a three followed by two more from McFarlan, opening a 37-24 lead, though the Redhawks closed to 42-38 at the break on a late Peyton McLauren layup. The highlight of the half came with 2:01 left, when James Mitchell hit a three-ball to bring his career total over 1,000, drawing a standing ovation from the Aquinas Hall crowd.
Though RWC drew to within two early in the second, Justin Reyes imposed his will with seven straight points to give STAC a 62-53 gap with 11:25 left. PJ Alkins added a three to make the margin 71-57 with 7:39 left, and Reyes scored his team's final 10 points to seal the triumph.
Reyes recorded game highs of 37 points and 14 rebounds, shooting 13-for-18 from the field and making all 11 free throws attempted. McFarlan added 15 and Mitchell 13, while Justin Vaughan paced the Redhawks with 18. The hosts dominated with a 42-31 advantage on the boards, while shooting 16-of-18 (89%) from the foul line.
The Spartans return to action on Wednesday, February 7, facing Mercy College in an ECC tilt that will be played at nearby Nyack College. They return to Aquinas Hall to host the University of Bridgeport in a first-place showdown on Saturday, February 10, with double-header action starting with the women's teams at 1:00 pm, followed by the men's game at approximately 3:00.