The St. Thomas Aquinas College men's basketball team closed out the 2017-18 regular season with a 79-72 East Coast Conference triumph over the University of the District of Columbia at Aquinas Hall. The Spartans, who retained their #3 ranking in this week's NCAA East Region ranking, take a 24-6 record overall along with their 15-3 conference mark into this week's ECC Men's Basketball Tournament. STAC's playoff schedule is still pending tomorrow's Daemen at NYIT game, still with a chance to earn a first round bye to the semi-finals on Saturday, March 3, at Voller Athletic Center at Roberts Wesleyan College in Rochester, NY. Time and opponents are to be determined.
In addition to paying tribute to seniors Justin Reyes, Jules deCourtenay, James Mitchell, Shaq McFarlan and Ross Greenfield, the game was a milestone occasion, marking the 300th victory of Coach Tobin Anderson and the 100th win for this group of seniors.
Mitchell caught fire early in the midst of a 13-3 STAC run as the hosts opened a 17-7 lead. UDC's defense clamped down and five straight points from Paul Eromosele capped a 15-3 burst as the Firebirds closed to 25-24 with just under seven minutes left in the half. The Spartans then held their foes to just one field goal over the next four minutes, and took a 44-36 lead into intermission.
While the game remained close, STAC held the visitors without a point over a four minute span until the offense could get going, and JR Connell and PJ Alkins proided the support, each hitting from three-point range. Alkins' second trey opened a 65-54 gap with just under six to play, and Mitchell added the next five Spartans points to fend off the second-half challenge from UDC, paced by Mitchell's 21 points, Reyes' 18, and a big 14-point performance off the bench from Alkins. Quadire Truesdale was the top performer for the Firebirds with 20 points.
First round playoff action takes place on Wednesday, February 27, at campus sites of the high seeds. The University of Bridgeport has clinched the top seed and a bye to Saturday's semi-finals, while STAC, Deamen, LIU Post, and Roberts Wesleyan have all clinched slots in the six-team field. Seedings and teams will be determined by this weekend's conference results.