Women's Basketball Downs Mercy, 70-61; Take Seven Game Streak, #3 Seed Into ECC Tournament
The St. Thomas Aquinas College women's basketball team prevailed in their final regular-season game, defeating Mercy College, 70-61. STAC now rides a seven game winning streak and has taken nine of 10 overall to improve to 16-10 overall, and 11-5 in the East Coast Conference, clinching the #3 seed in the upcoming tournament.
STAC will host Molloy College in the first round of the ECC Tourney this Wednesday, February 29, with tip-off time set for 7:00 pm. The winner advances to the semi-finals at Queens College on Saturday, March 3, with the finals to be held at the same site the following afternoon, and the tournament champion receives an automatic bid to the NCAA Division II Tournament. Mercy failed to qualify for the post-season and finishes their campaign at 3-23, 3-13.
The start of the day's festivities was emotional one as Lady Spartans Briana Sloper, Kim Vareles, and Natalie Catavero took the floor on Senior Day for their final regular season home game. It was Mercy who stormed from the gate, however, as Jasmine Williams recorded six points in lifting her team to an early 9-0 edge. A Shpresa Liharevic bucket "and-1" with 4:55 left capped a 13-4 run and drew the Lady Spartans even for the first time at 20-20. The Mavericks would rebound to take a 28-25 lead into halftime.
A Sloper layup would give St. Thomas Aquinas its first lead at 29-28 with 18:25 left. Again, the visitors would quickly answer and the teams proceeded to exchange leads. With the score tied at 45, Liharevic's bucket would propel the Lady Spartans on a 15-0 run, keyed by a pair of threes from Sara Oliviera and another from Sloper and Mercy would not threaten thereafter.
Sloper's 20 points led four Lady Spartans in double-figures, with Oliviera (18 pts, 4-of-8 in three pointers), Liharevic (10) and Ashley Motrechuk (10 pts, 8 rebounds) also filling the score sheet. Mercy's Jasmine Williams led all scorers with 22 points and 12 rebounds in her final collegiate contest, while Jessica Biggs contributed 11 off the bench.
STAC shot just 24% from the field in the first half, but rebounded to hit for 47% after the break. They totaled 34% on the contest (22-64), while Mercy recorded 39% (22-57). The Lady Spartans had a big advantage from the line, shooting 81% (21-26) to just 61% for Mercy (14-23), and the hosts enjoyed a narrow 45-41 rebounding margin.
If you can't make it out to Aquinas Hall this Wednesday, you can catch all the action by clicking the video link on the schedule, as STAC's own broadcast team of Steve Balsan and John Dwinell will call all the action from tip-off to buzzer as the Lady Spartans drive toward the East Coast Conference title.