Next Stop, Queens! Lady Spartans Down Molloy, 67-56, Advance to ECC Semi-Finals This Saturday
Briana Sloper netted a game-high 21 points and Bianca Kowgios added 20 as the #3 St. Thomas Aquinas College women's basketball team ousted #6 Molloy, 67-56 at Aquinas Hall. They will now face #2 seeded University of District of Columbia in the East Coast Conference semi-finals at Queens College this Saturday, March 3, at 2:30 pm. The victory was the Lady Spartans eighth straight and 10th in their last 11 games overall, raising their season mark to 17-10 while Molloy's season ends with an 11-16 mark.
After the teams traded hoops in the early minutes, the Lady Spartans exploded to grab a 19-8 lead on the strength of a 13-2 run, keyed by consecutive threes from Sara Oliviera, Sloper, and Natalie Catavero. Molloy would hang tough, however, as Amanda Bartlett and Ikema Ross combined to score all of the Lady Lions' points in a 10-2 run to trim the margin to 29-27 with 3:01 left in the half. The scoring would run dry thereafter, as a pair of Kowgios free throws would be all to hit the board before the break, staking the hosts to a 31-27 lead.
The tempo would remain high to start the second, with STAC jumping to a six point edge only to see their foes close it to 37-36 after five minutes of play. Sloper would continue her recent trend of strong second halves, posting six points en route to a 10-2 Lady Spartan run to open the gap to 47-38 with just under 12 minutes left.
Again Molloy would battle back to within 49-44 with 8:32 left but Catavero's third trey of the evening and a pair of Kowgios layups would quickly put STAC back up by a dozen at the 6:40 and establish the biggest lead of the night at 56-44. The feisty Lady Lions continued to show no quit, with a pair of Julia Finlay jumpers - one from downtown - sparking a 7-0 run to bring Molloy back within five with 3:26 left. Ashley Motrechuk would then take over, posting two blocks, two rebounds, a steal and a layup over a 50-second span, and STAC would not be threatened thereafter.
Sloper added a game-high 12 rebounds,and Motrechuk was tough on defense with five blocks to lead the Lady Spartans attack. Laura Rivera paced Molloy with 14 points, with Nicole Arnone adding 10 for the Lady Lions. Amanda Bartlett recorded nine points for the Lady Lions, all in the first half.
STAC shot an even 40% from the field (24-60) while holding their visitors to 37% (21-57). The Lady Spartans hit five three pointers - four in the first half - while Molloy hit three, while STAC won the rebounding battle by a decisive 44-36 tally.
In other ECC Women's Basketball Tournament action, #4 seed CW Post held the home court advantage, ousting #5 New York Institute of Technology, 85-70. The Lady Pioneers will also advance to Queens this Saturday, where they will square off with top-seeded Dowling College in the day's first contest at noon. The winners of Saturday's semis advance to the Championship Final, to be held Sunday at Queens College at 12:00 noon, with the winner earning a berth to the NCAA Division II Women's Basketball Tournament.
You can watch all of the action for both the men's and women's tournament, which will be broadcast courtesy of ECCsports.org and produced by Pack Network, with STAC's own broadcast crew of Steve Balsan and John Dwinell providing the call for the ECC. The video can be accessed either via the conference website or the video link on the team schedule page.