The St. Thomas Aquinas College women's basketball team erased a 21-point deficit before falling, 62-61, in an East Coast Conference battle at the University of Bridgeport. The Lady Spartans are now 17-10 overall and 11-6 in the ECC, while Bridgeport is now 13-12, 7-8. STAC has clinched no worse than a top-four seed for the upcoming conference tournament, and with Molloy's loss at Daemen, the Lady Spartans remain in second place by 1/2 game.
With their own post-season aspirations hanging in the balance, Bridgeport jumped out to a strong start, holding the visitors scoreless for over eight minutes while running off a 13-0 burst, ending on Jenna Erickson's three pointer which cut STAC's deficit to 16-7 after one quarter.
STAC's offensive woes continued into the second quarter, with the Purple Knights scoring the first nine points to open a 26-7 chasm. That lead extended to 31-10 on a Nicole Johnson three, and the difference remained substantial with Bridgeport holding a 38-20 margin at halftime.
After UB opened the gap back to 43-22 early in the third, the Lady Spartans got their game in gear and began to chip away, with Sam Burden scoring five straight points. Erickson drained two straight from deep, and the 13-0 run but STAC back in the hunt at 43-35. That put STAC within striking distance at 50-41 after three.
Anastasia Williams gave the Purple Knights a 58-48 lead with 5:54 left, but Adiya Henderson scored five straight to jumpstart STAC. Erickson followed with a three, and Kellyann Averill's bucket tied the score at 58-58 with 3:30 left. Henderson put her team on top at 60-58 with 2:19 left, but Samnel Vonleh tied the score with 1:09 left.
A series of turnovers culminated with Alex Bertolino hitting one of two free throws with 31 seconds left to put STAC back on top at 61-60. Camera Miley's jumper with 15 left proved to be the defining blow, though the Lady Spartans did have a final shot, as Bertolino's three-point attempt was off the mark as time expired.
Erickson and Bertolino tied for team-high with 15 points each, while Adiya Henderson added 10 and nine caroms. Vonleh posted 16 for UB with Miley recording 14.
The Lady Spartans' final regular-season game is Wednesday against Mercy College at Westchester Community College. STAC still has the chance at the #2 seed and a first round tourney bye - to do so, they would need to win Wednesday and have Molloy drop one of its two remaining ECC contests.
If STAC finishes third or fourth, they will host a first round ECC Tournament game on Wednesday, March 1, at 7:00 pm at Aquinas Hall. If they finish second, they advance directly to the conference semi-finals at the University of Bridgeport on Saturday, March 4, with the championship contest set for the following day.